Coupgabe: The Fall of Africa’s Most Prolific Modern Dictator

Last week, tanks rolled through Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe in what was a coup d’état against President Robert Mugabe who was in power in Zimbabwe since 1980 first as the country’s Prime Minister and then as the country’s President from 1987 after the death of former President Canaan Banana. Fortunately, the coup succeeded and Africa’s most prolific modern dictator fell from grace. The question remains whether the coup and the transfer of power to Zimbabwe’s new President Emerson Mnangagwa will usher a new chapter of economic prosperity and a shift from an authoritarian regime to a democratic regime.

The 2017 coup d’état against Mugabe, was a typical power struggle against Mugabe himself and the military with the main factor of the coup concerning the future succession of the Presidency with Mugabe intending to have his wife Grace succeed him as the President of Zimbabwe backed by the G40 faction within the Zimbabwean National Union Patrotic Front Party (Zanu-PF) after the firing of Vice President, the now President Emmerson Mnangagwa which, if Mugabe was able to stay in power with support from the military would see Zimbabwe effectively on the path to becoming a family dictatorship. With Mnangagwa backed by the Zimbabwean Defences Forces however, Commander Constantino Chiwenga seized the Zimbabwean Broadcasting Cooperation the country’s state broadcaster to reassure the populace that a quite obvious coup was not a coup with Major General SB Moyo stating that the military are “targeting criminals around him [Robert Mugabe] who are  committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice…we wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover of government”. His wording arguably suggested that it was intended to relieve the populace and disseminate support for the coup.

Indeed, the power struggle between Mugabe and the military resulted in his resignation, his wife leaving the and the instating of Mnangagwa as President. In his first speech as President Mnangagwa promised the following for Zimbabwe: “My government is committed to compensating those farmers from whom land was taken… peace and harmony should be characteristic of how we relate to one another before, during and after the 2018 harmonised, democratic elections next year”. The magnanimous promise of democratic elections in 2018 in Zimbabwe is, if stuck to by President Mnangagawa the most important step at this stage in the emerging democratisation in Zimbabwe but this would be largely dependent on the extent to which Zimbabwean party politics is restructured before the 2018 election from a dominant-party system under Zanu-PF to a multi-party system allowing for Movement For Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) the main parliamentary party opposition to Zanu-PF led by former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (2009-2013) and others to operate pluralistically with as equal a chance as possible within the regime.

Regionally, Zimbabwe is a member of the Southern African development Community a bloc whose main objectives are “…to achieve development, peace and security, and economic growth, to alleviate poverty, enhance the standard and quality of life of the peoples of Southern Africa, and support the socially disadvantaged through regional integration, built on democratic principles and equitable and sustainable development.” Zimbabwe’s relations with the bloc post-Mugabe at this stage during the political fallout of the coup still remain the same with the bloc stating “We look forward to Zimbabwe, under the leadership of President Mnangagwa, to continue driving forward technological and socio-economic transformation of SADC economies, through Industrialization, which remains a key priority to SADC… We welcome His Excellency President Mnangagwa, and we look forward to His Excellency’s contributions in promoting regional co-operation, and SADC development and integration agenda.” With the international community watching the state development of Zimbabwe in the post-Mugabe era and  the level of delivery of Mnangagwa’s promises will determine the “Inflow of foreign, and direct investment, as the West in particular looks to support the new government in restoring the economy. Inflow of returning migrants into the region, as new economic opportunities start to emerge. Finally, increase in disposable incomes of the populous, further boosting growth”.

As the fallout of the coup continues, Zimbabwe seems to be determined to dismantle Mugabe’s legacy of brutal economic and political repression. It is yet to be determined whether Mnangagwa is being too ambitious regarding what he can achieve before the 2018 election, whether he will be President afterwards or simply caretaker lame duck President. It is certainly clear however, that it will take the country a long time to recover from the looming shadow.


Featured image | The Former Vice-President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Honourable Mr Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa paid a courtesy call to President Jacob Zuma before heading back to Harare, Zimbabwe today 22 November 2017 : GovernmentZA | flickr

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Best of Africa.

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