5 questions about Zimbabwe: Did we miss the signs?

2017-11-16 17:42
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Negotiations for Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe's departure are underway after military leaders seized control of the government. Enock Mudzamiri explains how it all happened and where it's going.

Political commentators have described what happened in Zimbabwe as a silent coup of sorts. It seems it caught the world (certainly the media) off guard. How did nobody see it coming?

I think the media, like everyone else, was just fatigued about news from Zimbabwe and were not paying attention. For those who have been keenly observing the events in Zimbabwe for a while, this is one of the predicted scenarios to unfold because of the failure of succession politics in Zimbabwe for a variety of reasons:

1. Mugabe is a power hungry tyrant.
2. Failure by Mugabe to trust any of his lieutenants to guarantee his safety in the event that he retired. Remember, Mugabe is responsible for the massacre of the Ndebeles in the 1980s and the murder of opposition supporters in the 2000s, so he would most likely face the Hague for crimes against humanity.
3. The need to safeguard the wealth his family has acquired over the years, especially what his wife acquired illegally.

How did the military leaders manage to take over power without massive bloodshed?

The military wants credibility both internally and externally. It is a battle of the hearts and minds, hence any bloodshed will alienate them from the people. They would rather negotiate for Mugabe's exit than kill him or his allies. Secondly, the military has the guns and any person who goes against them knows that their fate is sealed.

Several reports refer to negotiations between Mugabe and the army generals. Knowing his age, how much can the man himself really be negotiating, or is someone (perhaps his wife) serving as his proxy?

Indeed negotiations are underway but it seems Mugabe does not want Mnangagwa to be interim president as he is not sure whether that will guarantee his security. He is insisting on someone else. He even has his lawyers negotiating for him. If he retires now the most likely scenario is that of an interim government pending elections, either earlier than scheduled, or later on after the scheduled date. The opposition is likely to take this opportunity to call for reforms within the electoral system so that when they go for elections, they have a chance of winning.

What are the dangers for Zimbabwe of this sort of takeover going forward?

If the military does not get its way, the most obvious thing is that they will formalise the coup. At the same time, they don't want to be viewed as a pariah by the international community so they will bid their time and look at other avenues such as using the parliament or judiciary to impeach and prosecute Mugabe.

At the same time this sets a dangerous precedent for Zimbabwe's political culture where anytime in the future the military feels that civilian leadership needs to be censured for whatever reason, they will intervene. The military should stay in the barracks, period!

What kind of administration can we expect under ousted vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, should he become president?

Mnangagwa is just as radical given his liberation background but he is more likely to listen to business given his own business interests. He is most likely to rely on the military in the same way Mugabe did to ensure that ZANU-PF remains in power. Remember, he is the one who returned Mugabe to power in 2008 after he was defeated by the MDC so he could be worse. He is also as corrupt as they come so I don't expect any changes in terms of regime dynamics.

- Mudzamiri is a Doctoral candidate and researcher at the University of South Africa with a specific focus on Zimbabwean politics.

Read more on:    robert mugabe  |  zimbabwe

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