The coup d’ètat that isn’t a coup

18 11 2017

The power plug has been pulled – one of many jokes doing the rounds

The military have been emphatic; it’s most certainly NOT a military coup. Just a reorganising of the ruling party (ZANU-PF) ranks. To be specific they are going after the “criminals” surrounding the president, Robert Mugabe. One could be forgiven for thinking – which criminals? Good heavens, there must be so many. Actually they mean a rival faction called G40 headed up  by the president’s wife, Grace Mugabe, sometimes known as Gucci Grace for her prolific shopping capacity. Grace who had aspired to the top post of president when her nonagenarian hsuband dies made the mistake of persuading her husband to fire her competitor, Emmerson Mnangagwa, one of the vice presidents (we have two, just in case). She’d just been booed by the crowd at a rally in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second city in the south-west of the country, and was spitting-mad. She’s quite impetuous so might have forgotten that Mnangagwa is a veteran of the bush war against the former Ian Smith regime and has a lot of mates high up in the military.

So on Wednesday morning we woke to the news of a coup that wasn’t. All the signs were that it was; a man in military uniform reading a statement that it was not a coup, the house arrest of President Mugabe and his family (including Grace) and the arrest of members of the G40 faction. The only sign that anything was impending was the sighting the previous evening of military “tanks” (they were amoured personnel carriers) moving into town to take up strategic positions. Gunshots and explosions were reportedly heard in the night but never verified. This was not however a spur-of-the-moment affair, it was meticulously organised.

We now know that General Chiwenga, chief of the armed forces and front man for the non-coup plotters , and Emmerson Mnangagwa met in South Africa with senior political figures after the latter fled the country having been fired. South Africa said it would not interfere so long as an effort was made to evict Mugabe under terms of the constitution.

On his return from visiting China, Gen. Chiwenga organised for a number of troops to meet him at the airport to foil the attempt by chief of police Augustine Chihuri to have him arrested.  Why did he have to let the Chinese know what was up? Perhaps because we owe them a lot of money. Curiously one of the first statements read on the radio included the line “…and thank you to our friends the British and Americans for their assistance”. How interesting. What did they know and when did they know it?

Yesterday on our early morning excursion to exercise the dogs we passed a troop of soldiers from the local barracks out on a run. They were all to a person dressed in civilian clothing presumably to not worry the inhabitants of the suburb. It is not unusual to see them in this area but they are inevitably wearing some camouflage clothing. This was attention to detail.

On going past the barracks gate a few km down the road I noticed 3 soldiers being inspected by another. I have NEVER seen that in all the years that I’ve been going past. Later in the day a soldier was standing by the side of the road in full uniform with and AK47 and highly polished boots. Dressed to impress I think.

The BBC has been openly quoting “our reporter in Harare” – it’s been a long time since that happened. Clearly the organisers are wanting to project an open image to the world. Foreign reporters have generally been unwelcome in Zimbabwe for the past 10 years or so and are not usually invited to coup events.

Social media has been completely unfettered unlike last year’s disturbance behind the #ThisFlag movement when we were introduced to the VPN concept. Clever; it says look, we are allowing everyone to have a voice.

Police roadblocks have been conspicuously absent since Wednesday morning. There are a few military roadblocks on the way to the airport but they don’t extort money from hapless motorists like the police do and by all accounts they are civil. Somebody went to the effort of choosing the best troops to avoid antagonising the public and to getting the police out of the way as they would have been potential flash points.

Negotiations are ongoing to get Robert Mugabe to step down as president. He has dug his heels in and refuses to go. Photographs show a smiling Gen. Chiwenga and a relaxed looking Mugabe. Just old mates meeting up for a chat, or so it seems. One hopes that the military and their team of advisors anticipated this move because if they back down their heads will be on sticks – literally.

On the way back from town this morning I stopped by a local branch of TransServ, an automotive spares and consumables outlet, to buy some 2 stroke oil for hedge cutters we use. I decided to test the local mood.

“Good morning sir, how are you?” greeted the salesman, recognising me.

“Fine” I replied, “how are you?”.

“I am fine, and what can I do for you?” he responded.

“You can tell Robert Mugabe to go”.

The salesman laughed nervously and  put his finger over his lips in the universal “shush” sign.

“OK”, I responded, “I need some 2 stroke oil”.

Once we’d finished the transaction he asked if there was anything else.

“Yes, you can get rid of Mugabe” I persisted.

Lots more nervous laughter. So I pushed again and pointing to one of the ubiquitous portraits of Mugabe that are found all over the place I added “And you can take that down”. Even more nervous laughter followed.

“So, on Monday I want to see a picture of a crocodile up there” I said on parting. The crocodile is the symbol of Mnangagwa’s faction of ZANU-PF, sometimes known as the Lacoste faction (get it?). The laughter that followed might have been slightly less forced.

In the afternoon Mugabe was let out of house arrest (perhaps the military indicating that he was alive and well) to go and present degrees at Zimbabwe Open University. He arrived with just 3 cars and no security escort. In an irony that could not have been scripted he capped the wife of Gen. Chiwenga and was then pictured asleep.

Saturday. As I write this there is a march taking place in the centre of Harare. It’s been organised by the War Veterans Association, once staunch backers of the Mugabe regime but who have become increasingly critical over the past few weeks, and it’s completely legitimate (something that never would have happened under Mugabe). The military are being cheered and BBC has said there are 10s of thousands there and social media images show a LOT of people in town. Yet another smart move by the organisers of the coup that isn’t. It says “look how popular we are”.

I have to admire the non-coup organisers whoever they are – this has been meticulously planned. Chiwenga apparently has a genuine PhD in sociology (I have seen the title page of his thesis on Twitter) and Mnangagwa is a lawyer but I have to think there is a team behind them and boy are they clever.

So whither the Mugabes? David Cotlart proposed earlier this week that the president would have to be impeached and that does seem to be the course that’s being taken. The Herald, the government newspaper that was much ridiculed in the past for it’s sycophantic approach to Mugabe, has reported that ZANU-PF has voted for Mugabe to resign and failing that they are likely to move for impeachment. The provincial branches of the ruling party have voted en masse for him to go so it seems likely that the support is there. What will they do with Grace? She’s not welcome in South Africa and as a joke doing the rounds stated; “President Mugabe will step down on the condition that his successor takes over his wife. Suddenly nobody wants the job”.

And the future? Here’s my guess. Mnangagwa will arrive back to a hero’s welcome and be instated as head of ZANU-PF. He might even be made interim president until elections next year which he will try and win free and fair on the back of the current euphoria – being seen as the saviour of the country. He might well succeed as the opposition is weak and fractured. ZANU-PF will reinvent itself and be in power for another 5 years. Investors will be seduced and likely ignore the less than perfect situation. How Mnangagwa and Chiwenga will deal with their dirty pasts remains to be seen. It’s exciting times!

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One response

18 11 2017
tuppit260

We’ll written, keep up the briefing!

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