Tuesday, August 11, 2020

The biggest loser out of events in Zimbabwe is the opposition in that country

It was never intended to be a coup.

By definition a coup involves power changing hands.

Throughout the week the army generals have continued to reverentially refer to Robert Mugabe as the Commander in Chief.

In their public statements, the intention of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces was from the beginning made explicitly clear ÔÇô to stop on tracks the succession plan that their venerable Mugabe had fallen prey to.

A by-product of derailing such a loathed succession plan would include fully restoring the Zanu-PF hegemony, if not under the frail Robert Mugabe, then certainly under anybody who has comparably strong liberation credentials.

Other than Mugabe, under the universe of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces the person most suited to restore Zanu-PF to its founding liberation ethos is none other than the sacked vice President Emerson Mnangagwa.

Explicitly excluded from the race is Grace Mugabe and the nakedly manipulative Jonathan Moyo ÔÇô or the professor as Robert Mugabe once dismissively referred to him.

Many people, especially liberals sympathetic to opposition had seen the military action as a way of achieving what they themselves have long failed to do through the ballot  ÔÇô removing Mugabe.

Yet the biggest loser of it all, it will soon become apparent is neither Mugabe nor Grace and her cohorts, but rather the opposition.

Rather than provide a clean break with the past, the military action has served to entrench the hegemony of Zanu-PF.

If there ever was any doubt, it is now immensely clear that in Zimbabwe there is no difference between Zanu-PF and the army.

In fact from the public statements made  by the army top brass, it is clear that the most ardent supporters of Zanu-PF are to be found in the barracks.

From the statement by General Constantino Chiwenga it was clear that the actions by the army were not intended at a power grab.

Just how the liberals across the world and the opposition in Zimbabwe have missed this still beats me.

Chiwenge said their intention was to save Robert Mugabe from the criminals that were surrounding him as the commander in chief and also guardian of the revolution.

To me the statement by Chiwenge had in it echoes of a Republican Guard General in Iran talking about the Supreme leader, Ayatollah Khomeini.

Thus expecting from it any actions that might lead to political pluralism is naivety of the first order.

If the opposition in Zimbabwe ends up being a part of any transition arrangement that could possibly still be negotiated, that would be an accident ÔÇô a totally unintended consequence that never ever formed a part of the military planners of the still unfolding drama.

In the general scheme of things, when it comes to the army, opposition simply does not exist in Zimbabwe. And that much was made very clear by General Chiwenge.

When the tanks started to roll into town, the intention ÔÇô from beginning to the end – was always to consolidate the hegemony of Zanu-PF ÔÇô or the revolution, as the army chief prefers to call it.

Owing to its many weaknesses, Zimbabwean opposition, in its many formations has totally failed to take advantage of the ruling party’s divisions and infighting over the recent past. A big opportunity has thus been missed.

After events of this week, the ruling Zanu-PF is likely to get its house in order.

This might set back the opposition in that country by something like fifty years.

The closest that opposition ever came to winning state power in Zimbabwe was in 2008.

But it was the same infrastructure that is today putting Mugabe under house arrest and reminding him that he’s gone astray that made opposition victory impossible during that time.

General Chiwenge’s loaded statement made it clear that when it comes to the revolution the army would never  hesitate to step in.

Events in Zimbabwe were all about self-preservation. The generals in Zimbabwe will not accept anybody who they perceive rightly or wrongly as a threat to their universe. The use of revolution is nothing more than a euphemism  -a naked alibi.

This should worry anybody who had hoped to see a democratic change of power happening in Zimbabwe in our life time.

Chiwenga said the army would not stand by and watch anybody threaten the revolution.

A threat to revolution is a generic reference to anybody who has not been a part of the liberation war.

That of course referred to Grace Mugabe and her cohorts. But it also indirectly referred to Zimbabwe’s political opposition.

This means that there is no chance of an alternative democratic set-up that the army can tolerate, especially if such a setup means a take-over of state power by opposition.

In the whole Africa, the army that comes closest to that of Zimbabwe in its extreme politicization is that of Egypt.

Otherwise it is the Pakistani army that truly compares with the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.

In Pakistan the army is both a business, an industrial as well as political complex.

Nobody comes to power in Pakistan unless the army so permits.

The most powerful person in Pakistan is not the president of that country, but rather the head of the armed forces.

That is also the first lesson we learnt this week from the still unfolding drama in Zimbabwe.

And hopefully the opposition in that country has internalized this lesson too.

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Sunday Standard August 9 – 15

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of August 9 - 15, 2020.