Military coup, devil's sermon and semantics

Military coup, devil's sermon and semantics
Published: 05 March 2018 (428 Views)
ZIMBABWE can be a very interesting country. Even if one says tomorrow is Saturday, which it is, someone may decide to take you head on that, more like a person appointed by the Roman Catholic Church to challenge a proposed beatification or canonisation, or the verification of a miracle.

There are such people everywhere; those who express contentious opinions to provoke debate or test the strength of opposing arguments. They play the devil's advocate. This seems to be what is happening now. You have political and military opinion leaders, as well as ordinary people who still claim what happened on November 14/15 last year in Zimbabwe was not a military coup.

Muckraker was clear from day one: it was a coup d'état in French, a putsch in Swiss German or golpe de estado in Spanish. In English it's simply a coup, borrowed from French. In simple terms there was an unconstitutional takeover of government, which resulted in the removal of an elected incumbent, in this case former president Robert Mugabe, never mind how controversial his election was. That's a different story.

Why is this still an issue? Well, a senior military commander this week raised the debate when he claimed it was not a coup because the military did not take over the executive, judiciary or the legislature, as well as declare a state of emergency and suspend the constitution to rule through martial law. It sounds logical until you consider the upshot of the military intervention: forcing Mugabe to resign basically at gunpoint. Not that we care about Mugabe's fall (we have been arguing that he must go for over 20 years now), but we are concerned about the constitution, democracy and the well-being of the people, not Mugabe.

Things vary in meaning depending on the framework you judge them in, which determines parameters of the debate. If you ask us whether is it rational and sound to say it was not a coup because the military did not directly and completely seize power, we will of course say it is not. The point is the military removed Mugabe and put their own man, President Emmerson Mnangagwa, which is a coup.

The contrary view simply amounts to missing the forest for the trees; getting involved in details of an issue to the point of missing the bigger picture. Or alternatively, it is a devil's advocate perspective or argument for the sake of argument. In this tragic drama, we certainly need some comic relief like that from time to time.

Devil's sermon

Which brings to us our lead story last week in which we reported in detail — almost verbatim — what Mugabe told Moussa Faki Mahamat, the African Union Commission chair at his Blue roof Mansion in Harare on February 19. On February 24, Mugabe was at it again when he protested in front of a handful of guests he had invited to his luxurious residency for his belated 94th birthday party.

Mugabe's bitter protests and complaints can be summarised as follows:

He was forced to resign on November 21 2017 by the military;

The current Mnangagwa administration is unconstitutional;

The country is now effectively running under military rule;

There has been a degradation of political and civil liberties,

Zimbabwe must go back to a constitutional and legal order;

Elections won't be free and fair due to military interference;

His beloved wife Grace cries daily because of harassment;

Grace didn't get her PhD fraudulently, she worked for it; and

His family is being denied its constitutional benefits (pension).

Look, there is no question about the unconstitutional change of government. The reason why Sadc, AU and the international community kept quiet or gave tacit support to Mnangagwa and the military is simply that they were tired of Mugabe. More importantly, Zimbabweans joined in the fray by protesting against Mugabe while supporting the military intervention. That was the turning point. Without the people's support, the army was going to find itself operating between the devil and a deep blue sea. So Mugabe is right on some of these issues. It is harebrained to say the coup was right because Mugabe was a dictator. It's a ridiculous argument.

However, that is as far as it goes.

The trouble here is that Mugabe has no moral authority to talk about democracy and military interference in politics given his misrule and tyranny, and indeed use of the military to hang onto power. He has lost the moral high ground on that. He cannot credibly pontificate about democracy and freedom when his repressive regime denied people the same and left a trail of atrocities against dissenters. Those who dared stand up or oppose Mugabe's government were intimidated, harassed, attacked, maimed or killed. Strange that he now says if you oppose Mnangagwa and his regime they say "you must die". That is exactly what used to happen during his era.

Make no mistake, for ordinary people and us it was always going to be important to celebrate the downfall of Mugabe, one of Africa's last standing dictators who ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist for 37 years.

His authoritarian and disastrous rule perpetrated untold damage to the nation and its people. For the majority, the disintegration of Mugabe's dictatorship simply provides a starting point, perhaps under conditions of enhanced freedom and limited economic recovery.

Serious political, economic, and social problems will continue for years, requiring the regrouping of democratic forces to continue with the campaign for fundamental reform and enduring change.

Yet it is not lost on us that Mugabe's departure may not necessarily lead to a new dispensation. Aristotle warned a long ago: "Tyranny can also change into tyranny". We are not yet there, but Mnangagwa must avoid that path.

In the meantime, Mugabe must spare us his devil's sermons, sit down, chill and write memoirs on how dictators fall or on how not govern — him being the case study!

Ziyambi hypocrisy

Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi was in Geneva this week at the 37th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva Switzerland. "We continue to consolidate and deepen constitutionalism in Zimbabwe, including the holding of elections every five years. Concrete measures to align Zimbabwe's domestic laws with international human rights instruments that it is part to, are also being undertaken," Ziyambi told the 37th session of the council.

As he pontificated about upholding international human rights, back home he had incredibly booked every venue daily in his constituency until the end of campaigning for the next general elections as a way of shutting out the opposition. In a letter to Zvimba rural district council, Ziyambi ordered that no political party should be allowed to hold rallies in the district as all the venues are booked till the end of August 2018. There you have it folks. This is madness. He is such a funny or ridiculous guy. That Ziyambi preaches democracy in Geneva, while practicing fascism back home shows he is a big hypocrite.

Reality check

The excitement and hope brought about by the "new dispensation" is now evaporating faster than dew in sweltering heat. For instance, the expectation that Mnangagwa and his government would solve the country's acute cash shortages was dissipated by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa's admission in Parliament recently that the crisis will not be resolved any time soon. He said this was as a result of lack of confidence in banks. This is not surprising as no one will deposit money knowing that they will struggle to get it out when they need it. How investors are to have any confidence to come in such circumstances boggles the mind. Chinamasa's admission just goes to show that the new regime's first 100 days have been a damp squib despite the state media's puerile propaganda. Muckraker does not expect Mnangagwa to wave a magic wand and resolve Zimbabwe's multifaceted problems in 100 days, but his officials and himself must understand that direction is more important that speed in this game. So don't promise things you can't do please!

- Tinotenda Samkange


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