Globe: A Coup in Zimbabwe


On the morning of November 15th, a man in green army fatigues, Major General S.B. Moyo, the spokesperson for the Zimbabwe Defense Forces, appeared on state TV in Zimbabwe to address the African nation. He stated that there was not a coup against the ruling dictator, Robert Mugabe, by stating that there was not a military takeover of the government. What is actually happening in Zimbabwe is still shrouded in mystery, but one thing is almost certain – there has been a coup in Zimbabwe.

The day before, tanks and other military vehicles were positioned on the outskirts of the Zimbabwean capital, Harare. The vehicles moved into the city, and then proceeded to surround the residence of Robert Mugabe. The speculated drive behind the coup was Zimbabwean Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former military and security overseer. Despite the uncertainty of the coup, it is clear that it was intended to remove Robert Mugabe from power.

Robert Mugabe stands amongst the last of the liberationist-tyrants to rule Africa following the remission of the European empires. Zimbabwe, known as Rhodesia back then, was the post-independence successor to the British colony of Southern Rhodesia. From independence in 1965 until 1979, Rhodesia was governed under a system of white-minority rule in a fashion similar to that of apartheidist South Africa. That all changed in 1980, when the Marxist revolutionary Robert Mugabe won power in a legitimate election, after years of leading a guerilla campaign and being incarcerated.

The revolutionary optimism associated with the liberation of the now renamed nation of Zimbabwe was quickly dispelled not long after Robert Mugabe came to power. Like many new dictators, Mugabe was eager to consolidate his power and eliminate those suspected of disloyalty – in Mugabe’s case, it was Zimbabwe’s second-largest ethic group, the Ndebele. In 1983, Mugabe unleashed his North Korean-trained special forces on the Ndebele in a campaign of rape, torture, and murder that resulted in around 20,000 deaths. Purportedly, that survivors of the massacres were made to dance on the mass graves of their neighbors.

Robert Mugabe’s economic governance was that of a revolutionary socialist, the type that could parallel by Venezuela’s socialist regime. He utilized the rhetoric of socialism to his political advantage by consistently propping up himself as a champion of the poor, which gave him leniency to push his opponents around. Mugabe spent money recklessly, and when the treasury was finally suffocated of funds, he initiated a campaign of seizing white-owned farms and gifting the purged farms to his supporters.

 The purge of white-owned commercial properties led to foreign investors withdrawing from Zimbabwe, the withdrawal of foreign aid, and the implementation of sanctions from the US and the EU. To this day, Mugabe continues his support of his purges, as he recently stated in a speech that he would not prosecute anyone associated with the crimes that coincided the seizures.

Aside from the land seizures, Mugabe instituted a regime of printing money that resulted in severed hyperinflation. To combat the inflation, Mugabe enacted price controls that led to shops running out of basic goods. Almost four decades after Robert Mugabe came to power in Zimbabwe, the African nation is poorer than when he ascended the throne. A quarter of Zimbabwe’s population were short on food this year, and an estimated 3-5 million Zimbabweans have left the country.

After almost four decades of disastrous rule, it appeared that Robert Mugabe’s rule was coming to an end – even before the coup occurred. At 93-years-old, Mugabe was in poor health. frail and under suspicion of suffering from dementia, Mugabe was already grooming a successor of his choosing. That successor was his wife, Grace Mugabe, whom is 41 years younger than her husband, and whom she had an affair with as Robert Mugabe’s first wife was dying. Grace Mugabe has numerous enemies within the ruling political party in Zimbabwe, the Zanu-PF. Most notably of which is Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Who is Emmerson Mnangagwa? Up until his recent dismissal by Mugabe, Mnangagwa was a Vice President of Zimbabwe. At 71-years-old, Mnangagwa held a prominent role in the liberation from white rule and the aftermath. Mnangagwa helped direct the guerilla war against Rhodesia, alongside Mugabe.

After Mugabe’s victory and the creation of Zimbabwe, Mnangagwa served as security minister and spymaster, in which he oversaw the massacre of the Ndebele and the marauding campaign into the Congo during that nation’s civil war. Nicknamed “The Crocodile” for his political shrewdness, after serving in the security capacity that allocated Mnangagwa the ability to make allies in the military, Mnangagwa ascended to Vice President, where evidently, he made his ambitions to become Zimbabwe’s next ruler too apparent.

After a climax in tensions between Emmerson Mnangagwa and Grace Mugabe, on November 8th, Mnangagwa fled Zimbabwe. On the 13th, Zimbabwe army General Constantino Chiwenga warned that if the allies (read: Mnangagwa) of the military were not protected, the military would intervene. General Chiwenga fulfilled his warning the next day, when military vehicles entered the capital and surrounded the Mugabe residence.

The international reaction to the coup has not yielded much support for Mugabe. Zimbabwe’s two closest international partners – South Africa and China – have done little to affirm Mugabe’s rule. China, which financially supported the Mugabe regime until it lost faith with him, has remained silent on the issue. Jacob Zuma, a close ally of Mugabe, who, like the Zimbabwean leader, wants his wife to succeed him, has called Mugabe to affirm that he was under house arrest.

As of this writing, the situation in Zimbabwe is still murky and hard to decipher. As of now, Robert Mugabe is under house arrest, but still maintains that he is still in power. Mugabe gave a recent televised, rambling speech in which he stated that he had no intention on resigning from his position. Despite Robert Mugabe’s record of ethnic cleansing and economic disaster, the coup brings little prospects of hope to Zimbabwe.

 The suspected force behind the coup, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has long been a henchman for Mugabe’s crimes and policy disasters. However, Mnangagwa is not as self-idolizing as Mugabe, and has a stronger grasp of reality. Without the cult of personality that has crippled Mugabe, perhaps the situation in Zimbabwe will improve – albeit marginally.