Mugabe gone but was it a coup or not?


Many opposition figures seem to be counting on Mnangagwa forming a genuine, power-sharing government of national unity to run Zimbabwe until the next elections. He might feel that’s what he requires to win the international support he’ll need to revive Zimbabwe’s crippled economy.

However former Movement for Democratic Change senator David Coltart suspects that Mnangagwa will dispense with such a formal arrangement and will at most bring a few people from outside Zanu-PF into his cabinet to make it look more representative. The two MDC leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube, the finance minister in the 2009-13 government Tendai Biti and former vice president Joice Mujuru all come to mind. They would probably want guarantees of a real say in the transitional government before accepting positions.

More important, Coltart says, is that international creditors and donors should make their support conditional on the constitution being fully respected and implemented to ensure the next elections are truly free and fair.

The United States seems to be key here as it still has considerable leverage. Others have dropped their sanctions but the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act sets out strict conditions for America to lift targeted sanctions and provide debt relief. This includes through vital international financial institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

Mnangagwa and Chiwenga, specifically, are still among about 200 individuals and entities on the US sanctions list. “To have their assets unfrozen and their ban on doing business with Americans lifted, they will need to convince US officials that they are no longer undermining democracy and the rule of law,” former deputy US assistant secretary of state for Africa Todd Moss writes in Foreign Policy.

Free and fair elections are nevertheless going to be a big ask from Mnangagwa and the generals who played key roles in helping Mugabe to steal past polls. Perhaps riding on a crest of popularity after getting rid of Mugabe, they won’t even need to rig the next poll.

But they need to be wary that in toppling Mugabe, they also let the genie of democracy out the bottle, propelled by euphoria. Trying to squeeze it back in may not be easy and could provoke serious clashes with an emboldened electorate.

By Peter Fabricius. This article was originally published by ISS Today


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The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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