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Why Zimbabweans celebrated a military takeover

It was a typical morning in the capital, with vendors setting up their wares on the streets, pirate taxis ferrying people to work and long winding bank queues, a permanent feature in a country which is battling a liquidity crisis. Not even a military takeover would stop them.

In the bank queue, the news of the day obviously could not be ignored. But of interest is how lightly ordinary people have received the whole situation.

To some, Chiwenga was not just another power hungry military man with access to guns, but a savior who is liberating country.

“This is the last time you bank people will be seeing us here. We have been liberated. A new Zimbabwe is coming. Soon this economy will be functional and we will not have to sleep at the bank,” one elderly woman shouted to a bank manager as he came to open the doors.

“It is done! We had suffered for too long,” another woman said to a loud applause.

People are not supposed to be comfortable with military rule, but that conversation in the bank queue shows how desperate Zimbabweans are to see the end of Mugabe’s long rule.

Zimbabwe has known just one leader since it attained independence from Britain in 1980. Mugabe has ruled the country with an iron fist using State apparatus; his feared secret police and, yes, you guessed it, the same army which is now celebrated today.

His stay in power has been characterised by gross human rights violations and allegations of vote fraud.

Freedom of speech remains restricted in the country. Opposition parties and journalists who dare voice any dissenting views are subjected to arbitrary arrests and all sorts of harassment.

During Mugabe’s reign, corruption in public institutions was made palpable, as he enriched himself and allowed those close to him to plunder and strip the country of its wealth. The first family is known to own several upmarket properties in neighbouring South Africa and in Singapore.

Today, the country has no currency of its own after it was rendered worthless by record setting hyper-inflation. More than 90 percent of the population is unemployed and the majority of Zimbabweans lives on less than a dollar a day.

The country’s healthcare system is broken, sanitation is poor and access to potable water is limited. As a result, recurring outbreaks of easily curable diseases such as cholera and typhoid are common.

Even in its supposedly normal times, the country was lowly rated and grouped amongst the poorest of nations. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) classifies Zimbabwe as a fragile state, amongst the likes of South Sudan, Somalia and Yemen.

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