Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

Lessons from #Zimbabwe’s coup

By Peter Apps | Reuters |

The speed of events in Zimbabwe this week has taken even experienced Africa watchers by surprise. An effective army takeover; President Robert Mugabe placed under house arrest and his wife – and would-be successor – reportedly fleeing the country.

President Robert Mugabe
President Robert Mugabe

It’s still unclear who will end up running Zimbabwe. But whoever prevails will need the backing of both the military as well as China, Zimbabwe’s primary foreign investor.

By Thursday, reports indicated the 93-year-old Mugabe was still trying to persuade top generals that he should be allowed to serve out his presidential term until elections next year. The generals were believed to favor handing power to Mugabe’s former deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Here are some key lessons from what we now know:

1. China is emerging as a key powerbroker on the continent.

Nobody in Beijing or Harare is saying whether China was told in advance about plans for the takeover. Shortly before Zimbabwean tanks took to the streets, however, the Chinese Defense Ministry made a point of reporting that Zimbabwe’s top military commander had met with his Chinese counterpart in Beijing the previous week.

The news was widely reported, particularly in southern Africa, alongside the breaking coup developments. Many regional observers suspect China, which backed guerrilla fighters from Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union movement during its war against then-Rhodesia’s white minority regime, was in the loop on events in Harare, and broadly supportive.

With Beijing strikingly increasing its holdings in sub-Saharan Africa in the last decade, expect this kind of signaling to be a key part of events on the continent from now on.

2. No autocrat lasts forever.

Described by a U.S. ambassador as a “brilliant tactician,” Mugabe was regarded as one of the great survivors of international politics. Charming and utterly ruthless, he was willing to use ethnic division, death squads, media manipulation and a host of other unsavory tools to crush all opponents. In 2008, his main rival withdrew from a runoff vote after government forces beat, killed or intimidated thousands of opposition voters.

Ironically, he’s now been undone by the same advancing years that once protected him from internal challengers who previously seemed content to wait for time to take its toll. Since he entered his 90s, this dynamic changed as it became clearer that Grace Mugabe, an ambitious woman more than 30 years her husband’s junior, was angling for her own shot at the presidency. The scheming and backstabbing culminated last week in the firing of Vice President Mnangagwa – a onetime favorite as Mugabe’s successor – in what was seen as a move to strengthen Grace Mugabe.

3. “Keeping it in the family” isn’t always possible.

Trying to transfer power to a close family member is hardly an unusual strategy for an ailing potentate. In countries that are not constitutional monarchies, however, it can be a divisive or impossible process.

Dubbed “Gucci Grace” within Zimbabwe for her reported shopping habits, Mugabe’s wife was never popular. Perhaps more importantly, her growing influence alienated and upset established figures in the ruling Zanu-PF party and government structure. They were clearly beginning to move against her before last week’s ouster of Mnangagwa.

Nor are the Mugabes the only dominant family in Africa to have had a bad week. Earlier this year, Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos handed power to his deputy after 37 years in office as part of the deal that also put his daughter Isabel in charge of state oil firm Sonangol. It lasted less than three months – she was fired on Wednesday in a move analysts said was a clear attempt by new incumbent João Lourenço to trim family power.

4. Entrenched power structures are just that. Entrenched.

When he was ousted from office last week, it briefly looked like the end of the road for Mnangagwa. Now, the man sometimes nicknamed the “Crocodile” looks likely to be handed power by the actions of the Army.

This is not a uniquely Zimbabwean situation. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is in many respects a similar character, a senior Army official who projected himself as a safe pair of hands through the chaos that followed the ouster of Hosni Mubarak and his sons.

These individuals are not just bright, ambitious characters who have waited in the wings for decades. They also have access to an entire generation of similar figures with similar frustrations. That can make for a powerful network when it comes to this kind of situation and a need for sudden, decisive action.

5. Imagery and narrative are crucial.

The speed and success of the military takeover in Zimbabwe contrasts dramatically with the July 2016 attempted coup in Turkey. Then, a relatively small group of military officers attempted to move against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Taking on a leader who was at the peak of his powers rather than an ailing nonagenarian, they faced a tougher task than their Zimbabwean counterparts. But the Turkish plotters also failed to seize key government buildings and allowed Erdogan to address the nation and coordinate with still-loyal military units.

In Zimbabwe, the military appears to have been united. Little force was used – and in at least one case, a poorly-maintained tank was unable to make it to the capital. None of that particularly mattered. The speed with which Mugabe was contained, the television appearance of a military spokesman and the visible presence of armored vehicles on streets was enough to show that the political reality had changed.

Whoever takes over in Zimbabwe now will need the backing of the military, but that doesn’t mean those behind the seizure of power can expect a free rein.

By Thursday, China’s closely-watched state-run “Global Times” was warning that prolonged instability in Zimbabwe might deter further Chinese investment. For Africa, the end of the Mugabe era may mark the start of a new chapter in China’s involvement on the continent. 

  • Ma1

  • We nid to thank the ZDF for their professional conduct of duty.No bloodbath.

  • Whoever wrote that should take it to central and west Africa

  • Jonso is on an absolute tweet fast!!!!

  • Ndokuti zimbabwe

  • keep it up boz

  • Ko hanziiko nhai veduwe

  • my qsn is that gire akati anomira napresident wake zvatisiri kumunzwa wani kugwauta zvasvika mapere padanga rembudzi. aka challanger munangagwa paya nhasi ngaachallanje chiwenga. chaasiri kuzva ndechekuti mnangagwa waaka challenger achingori iya waaka challenger ari kungo muchallanger nhanhasi.

  • I salute u zdf keep on fire

  • BIG UP MY GEN

  • This whole thing is stressing people. Why can’t one come out of that meeting to brief us

  • Nehanda where is latest news or update

    heard this thug refuse to sign (akuramba kozorora ko imbwa inomuchengeta iye can’t he blow his head )

  • Zim is for everybody who call it home not for the first family only

  • but gen cde chiwenga you must be careful coz akapa bob next chance ndiye acharohwa netreason charge dnt give him another chance

    • YAAH Chiwenga APA anotofanira kuchenjerra coz akngopusa eyiii

  • Latest news Mugabe is refusing 2 resign,he is still the President plz admins dt give us fake news

    • They didn’t say we want to remove Mugabe guys they only want to remove G40 that hides with Mugabe’s name only there is no need to see Mugabe’s resignation yet.

    • True the army z on his side

  • Zvadhakwa. Mugabe back in office .

    • Since the take over .. Mugabe was still President…and now he is…so the Military want him to step down formally. He is but no powers to dictate.

  • Just heard from Radio 702 that yesterday meeting have brought nothing. Also ibbo mandaza and tendai biti indicated yesterday that Mugabe can’t go without a fight, tiri pama1

    • Who is Tendai Biti?

    • Biti is the Leader of PDP, former finance minister, lawyer, human rights activist and politician. His opinion is a reflection of what need to be instituted, as we are in constitutional crisis. Mugabe right now is refusing to step down citing that he is the legitimate leader.

  • Ipa vanhu news chaidzo, SADC is behind uncle bob and he is refusing to step down

  • A VERY GOOD LESSON TO ALL DICTATORS

  • So the old guy still refuses to go& rest mxm.

    • he must go ….we want to come back to our mother land…..

    • For the whole 37 bloody years seriously hasn’t he had enough??

  • he must fall mudara… we want to come back to our ancestors in Rhodesia

  • Conspiracy. .

  • Nehanda vana vako vashatirwa vabatsire kugadzirisa Nyika zveee

  • Munonyorereiko zvekunyepa

  • Bob uyu ngaatoitwa UN President ndamutya

  • Bob uyu ngaatoitwa UN President ndamutya

  • Is that old man and his family bigger than all the people of Zim.? Let him resign and retire, for of God.

  • Stop that guys Mugabe his under huge pressure right nw

  • Kkk akuita ganda kunge vybz kartel

  • He can’t refuse to step down. The Military have taken over key institutions. No one can take orders from him. He is the President in the constitution …not of the people. Our Military leaders so far have excised competence and hope God continue giving them wisdom to win and make our country prosper. Most people are on the same page with the Military. Sadc..AU are toothless dogs …hence let’s not be distracted by their rants…as long the West and East are supporting the cause.

  • Masoja makabika mbodza