Zimbabwe military takes control of Harare. 15/11/2017. SOURCE: ANA

Africa Lead Opinion

Zimbabwe: Coup of special type yet nevertheless a bloodless coup!

A strange  tale of factional political-party-legacy-interest contradictions




Amilcar Cabral told us a long time ago, “Tell no lies, mask no difficulties, and claim no easy victories”. In what can be described as the sweltering summer of discontent we hear of interesting developments in Zimbabwe led by the military.





We are told what triggered this unexpected move was a toxic combination of factors, the emerging prominence of Grace Mugabe in search of vice- presidential candidacy of Zanu-PF and the State and the firing of the deputy president Emmerson Mnangagwa. It is claimed that the First Lady Grace Mugabe was already nominated by Zanu-PF provinces to become vice president. The latter we are told broke the camel’s back.





However it is the political statement of warning made by the Army Chief Constantino Chiwenga literally 72 hours earlier that must help us see the coup for what it is,   ”The current purging which is clearly targeting members of the party with a liberation background must stop forthwith”. Herein lies the real factional political-party-legacy-interest contradictions for which this coup became the response.





The truth is civilian life in this SADC affiliated nation has in silence of claimed calmness grinded to a screeching halt, the moment the military decided to assume a political role as Chiwenga gave effect to his defence of a legacy warning with Emmerson Mnangagwa as epicentre.







According to the military who is now effectively in charge of the country, this action on its part does not constitute a coup, rather it’s an intervention aimed at dealing with the criminals around the elected president Mugabe. This hazy explanation draped in kaftans of morality  may hide more than what meets the eye.







It appears the military under the leadership of General Chiwenga conveniently choose to narrowly interpret a coup as that which comes with the flowing of blood and death. While many coups are understood to take that form, we also know of bloodless coups. What is happening in Zimbabwe for now is a bloodless coup.










The SADC Chair, President Zuma informed us that he has spoken to the Zimbabwean President who confirmed he was in good shape but confined to his house. This was the first and clearest indication that civilian authority in Zimbabwe is not the order of the day anymore. This therefore cannot be interpreted any other way. SADC leadership that currently convenes in Gaborone Botswana released an interim statement since its Chair dispatched an envoy from South Africa, who is still to report back on the engagements with among others Mugabe and the Military. Key to note is that SADC’s interim statement was emphatic it condemns all forms of coups.









Whatever the reasons for the military’s actions,  real or fake it is essential to firstly admit this constitutes a coup. To place the elected executive leader of a democratic state effectively under house arrest in denial of him executing his rightful state duties constitutes a coup.








On another level the advanced notion of these actions as aimed  at cleaning up government  corruption attests really a Trojan horse argument. It is simply unacceptable for the Military in a democracy to usurp the constitutional role and mandate of the police and justice functionaries, to go after criminals and those defined as corrupt.








What we dare not forget is that Zimbabweans voted its current leadership like all before into power regardless how some may protest the elections were rigged and Mugabe was protected by Mbeki’s quiet diplomacy. In a constitutional democracy elections are the acceptable means by which political power is attained. The replacement of an elected leadership therefore cannot be done outside that frame of a ballot, and the removal of leadership where necessary is dictated to by that same constitution. Regardless to how some in South Africa are popping champagne bottles in cheap white identity celebration, the reality is Zimbabweans elected its leadership and Zimbabweans are the only to remove its elected leadership. That right is not a right for the army to claim but for civil society.










We also have to accept that the current opposition parties though basking in the media limelight of the moment are not in the slightest of control of this current situation. Let us not be fooled by the sudden presence of a Morgan Tsvangirai, whom we know has been ill and out of the country for known intervals. The reality dictates that the Zimbabwean Opposition Parties are in disarray and a depicts a fragmented directionless group that simply have not convinced the voters to trust them yet to lead in definitive sense.








Perhaps the most important thing not to forget is the factional reality of a Zanu-PF. This reality is the true centre of the military actions. Zanu-PF has been increasingly suffering of  disunity. Its known challenges of failure to unlock and grow the Zimbabwean economy couples with its failure to imply,meant due policies that will assist employment has come full circle.










What the military must admit is that its actions this week is not free of that factional reality of a contested political and economic arena of a Zanu-PF. It can also not deny its allegiance to a leader in Zanu-PF, namely Mngangagwa. Therefore the military’s actions are necessarily political in ontological sense and thus unconstitutional. The military actions are intrinsically linked to and feeds from this factional interest of a party that failed to put the people of Zimbabwe first.












The military’s claim of framing this coup as not a coup is also disingenuous. For the military in patronizing sense to tell Zimbabweans and the world its actions are aimed at getting rid of those who surround Mugabe whom they have declared criminals, is to fail to appreciate the role of the justice and police mandates in a constitutional democracy. The military in this season acts not in defence of ordinary Zimbabweans but in the interest of a faction of the ruling class, defined in Zanu-PF. To assume it can rid Mugabe from what it deems corrupt criminals is to assume that the Military is the final gatekeeper for a Zimbabwe constitutionalism.








It then appears the Military in attempt of justifying its unconstitutional actions, by confining a sitting president of a democracy is engaging in telling us lies, that this is no coup, that Cabral warned about.











It also means the military with its own undeniable political-party interest rooted action have attempted to mask the difficulties of the moment as it relates to stability in Zimbabwe under its control. This masking of difficulties, as warned by Cabral, is nowhere better understood then in the complexity of a Zimbabwean body politick. That body politick is defined in toxic combination of the factional reality of Zanu-PF aided by a fragmented Opposition Party context. To assume a restoration of civilian order will be an easy walk in the park by convening quick elections is to mask the deeper realities of conflict, instability and simmering unrest.












It then also appears the military  claims easy victories to assume its actions in claim of correcting democracy’s has the  blessing of Zimbabweans when the military was crucial for the uphold of the Mugabe presidency for the balance of 38 years since independence in 1980.










It then appears right for Mugabe to refuse  the offer to step down, when Zanu-PF has not asked him to do so.









For now we are told Zimbabwe is calm, yet that calmness cannot deny constitutional democracy fell tonight to a bloodless coup. Zimbabweans may not yet have lost their power to vote  but  constitutionalism is under threat and appears violated by this coup.  Let us not be fooled what happened in Zimbabwe is an remains a coup regardless how justified it may seem for many of us we blame Mugabe for the woes of a Zimbabwean once the breadbasket of Southern Africa, today a nation educated but that education can’t translate to a functional economy that can lead to growth and prosperity.





Clyde N. S. Ramalaine

Clyde Ramalaine – Columnist and Analyst
Clyde N. S. Ramalaine is an ordained and licensed member of the SA and USA clergy with over 25 years of service as a practicing theologian. Ramalaine’s incisive political analysis and commentary on a variety of issues has appeared regularly in most SA newspapers since 2010.
His work continues, among others, to appear in The Thinker, the leading Pan African Journal for thought leaders. He participates in panel discussions on subjects of his interest, and has appeared on SABC and ANN7 platforms, among others.
A published author including annual anthologies of political commentary and a volume of poetry named Gekraakte Blare.
He holds a BTH (Hons-Status) with double majors Systematic Theology and Sociology from the University of Western Cape (UWC).
He also earned a MA Theology (Systematic Theology) Cum Laude from North West University (NWU). His dissertation “Black Identity and experience in Black Theology: A Critical Assessment” is considered a ground-breaking and very relevant work in Black Theology. In such, he successfully questioned the usage of the epithet ‘black’ from a socio -historical and theological perspective.
He serves as management consultant on strategy design, analysis, and communication services for the last 22 years with serving clients in both private and public sector domains.
Analyst for Weekly Xpose.

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