Zimbabwe is doing just fine, for now at least.
The word disappointed falls short to describe how most Zimbabweans felt last night after hearing President Mugabe addressing the nation. It was Mugabe’s first address since the military took control of the country over a week ago. He did not resign as was expected and widely reported he would. It’s worth noting that section 96 (1) of the constitution requires the president to hand over his resignation to the speaker of parliament who then should inform the public as soon as is possible. Given this, the next 24 hours are crucial if not defining. My fellow Zimbabweans are still hopeful that the President will resign to avoid impeachment.
Africa is reported to have had more than 200 successful and failed coups to date. Some have already added Zimbabwe to that list, which I think is not quite accurate and yet cannot be categorically denied. We did have a ‘military takeover’ for a few days, and the military is still heavily involved. In the speech yesterday Mugabe said:”The operation [military involvement] I have alluded to did not amount to a threat to our well-cherished constitutional order, nor was it a challenge to my authority as head of state and government, not even as commander in chief of the Zimbabwean Defence Forces. To the man, the commend element remained respectful and comported themselves with diktats and mores of constitutionalism. True, a few incidents may have occurred here and there but they are being corrected”.
Now what happened in Zimbabwe has some of the hallmarks of how coups have been staged in other countries yet it doesn’t seem quite accurate to single it out as one. A coup is defined as a sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power from a government. Most legal practitioners in the country have argued that the army was well within its rights to “take over government operations”. There were no reported cases of violence and power has not been transferred, as things stand, Mugabe is still in charge. The military’s temporary take over of state media, denying that it’s a coup and foreign countries issuing travel warnings to their citizens advising them not to travel to Zimbabwe are all elements of a coup but the definition technically ceases to make this a coup.
Last night, Mugabe acknowledged that the army’s concerns were well founded. There are reports that the Army Generals would not have had him resign in their presence as this would make it look like they forced him to. During the week of the alleged coup Mugabe was even seen on national duty, capping graduands.
Military intervention: The best solution?
When I heard my father’s loud calls at my door on the morning of 15 November, around 4am, I immediately sprung to action, having slept around 1am with the knowledge that the army had taken over the country’s State broadcaster. The word ‘coup’ had already started being thrown around on social media, among colleagues, friends and relatives. On TV was Major General Sibusiso Moyo announcing a “military takeover” not a coup to arrest criminals around the President who were causing socio-economic suffering in the country. Maj Gen Moyo reiterated that the President and his family were safe, and that their security was guaranteed.
It is no secret that the army which took the bold step to “take over” last week has a litany of crimes committed against the generality of Zimbabwe. As opposition Senator David Coltart aptly puts it, “We must never forget how the military and war veterans spearheaded the violence which followed the March 2008 elections to ensure that Mugabe got back into power. They were behind the abduction and murder of hundreds of MDC activists that year. Without their intervention Mugabe would never have won the run-off election.”
We all remember
Forgetting is never an option and quite frankly for the not so born frees like myself, a future without Mugabe is an exciting yet “what if” prospect, we have known no other leader. It’s almost like being the first in your village to finally go to the big city for a big job with a better life, you are happy but unsure of the future. Zimbabweans would welcome any form of change right now. It doesn’t matter to most people that it’s their erstwhile abusers who protected Mugabe’s regime who have become their “liberators” so to speak. Truth be told, reports show that the defence forces have behaved in the most professional manner in the past week. A dear friend likened it to the proverbial small devil who brought back our bible that was stolen by the father devil. We will just be grateful to the small devil for bringing back our bible.
SADC: Messing things up?
The Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) attempt at rearing its two faced head in this political situation has been most unwelcome from the generality of Zimbabweans. The insinuation that the current situation demands an regional intervention is ill-informed. Peace has reigned supreme in the past week, though there is tension. Sadly the organ was quiet when suffering Zimbabweans needed them the most. Treating the current political situation as a crisis and the worrying fake news has made it look like we have a major crisis in the country. The misinformation has been more than the annual Robert Mugabe death reports. The solidarity march in Harare and those across the country were all reported to have been peaceful, full of fun filled laughter and dance yet the message was clearly sent, Mugabe had to go. The defence forces mingled with people in a way that has never been seen before.
Some fellow Africans have called Zimbabweans fools. I think nothing could be further from the truth. We have had a peaceful protest against a long-sitting President, something not so popular in Africa, it might had been a premature celebration, but we are witnessing the political ground shifting. Whether that power has fallen into the right hands remains to be seen, we can only be hopeful and enjoy what we have achieved so far. The future can never be certain but Mugabe is not going to be in power forever. I doubt Zimbabweans will ever look back at the past week with regret.