17 November 2017

Zimbabwe: We the People of Zimbabwe...

The Preamble to the Constitution of Zimbabwe begins,

"We the people of Zimbabwe,

"United in our diversity by our common desire for freedom, justice and equality, and our heroic resistance to colonialism, racism and all forms of domination and oppression,

"Exalting and extolling the brave men and women who sacrificed their lives during the Chimurenga/Umvukela and national liberation struggles,

"Honouring our forebears and compatriots who toiled for the progress of our country,

"Recognising the need to entrench democracy, good, transparent and accountable governance and the rule of law... "

The events of this week in Zimbabwe came as no surprise to anyone who has been following the tensions and complexities of dealing with a respected President in his twilight years at age 93, and in power since 1980, while containing the ambitions of those around him including his wife, 40 years his junior, to succeed him in a dynasty scenario.

Those who were using her to get to power and who had expressed the objective of destroying the governing party "from within" were succeeding beyond their active imagination, despite her record of accumulating and spending at a royal rate while her fellow citizens could get only a few dollars in cash out of their bank accounts.

The final act in their grand plan, popularly referred to as a "bedroom coup", was the weekend of 4 and 5 November in Bulawayo and Harare respectively, which was a "final push" against the Vice President who stood in her way to power.

The Head of State was annoyed at a youth rally in Bulawayo when a capacity crowd cheered the Vice President and booed the First Lady, and this distracted the speakers from any focus on issues relevant to the local party stakeholders.

The following day, she addressed a gathering of apostolic churchgoers at a football stadium in what was intended as imagery for attaining the "goal" of power.

Her continued and animated reference to "dead" opponents during a two-hour address fell on a flat audience and only increased sympathy for her subject, the Vice President, E.D. Mnangagwa, a respected veteran of the liberation war and a former Minister of Justice and Speaker of Parliament.

Some party leaders in the audience looked embarrassed at Grace Mugabe's threats which were combined with wild laughter. The following day the Vice President resigned, and then was fired, from government.

The day after that he was "expelled" from the governing party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, without due process aligned to the party constitution. He left the country the same night, after threats against his life.

With both the Constitution and the socio-economic life of the population under threat, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) took long-delayed action to protect both by, first ensuring the safety of the President, still their Commander in Chief, and his family.

This was followed by a broadcast on national radio and television to announce that they were taking action against "criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice."

The announcement stressed that this was not a military takeover of government.

"What the Zimbabwe Defence Forces are doing is to pacify a degenerating political, social and economic situation in our country which if not addressed may result in violent conflict.

"We call upon all the war veterans to play a positive role in ensuring peace, stability and unity in the country."

The ZDF urged the other Security Services to cooperate for the good of the country, "to address the human security threats in our country. To the media; we urge you to report fairly and responsibly.

"To our respected Traditional leaders: You are the custodians of our culture, customs, traditions, heritage and we request you to provide leadership and direction to your communities for the sake of unity and development in our country."

The capital city, Harare, and the rest of the country continued with business as usual, and the response of most people in the street was relief that action had been taken at last.

After good rain and a bumper agricultural harvest last season, the results are not visible in the national treasury or even in individual bank accounts, where most account-holders can withdraw less than $50 a week regardless of their bank balance.

The country was clearly united in support of this action and the soldiers securing government buildings were not viewed with alarm by the population.

The polite behaviour and good manners of soldiers at checkpoints near the airport was a sharp contrast to the previous police harassment of motorists.

Negotiations began the following day for the Head of State to retire from party and government, with a local mediation team, and the regional economic community held a security meeting and issued a statement calling on all stakeholders to "settle the political challenges through peaceful means."

The statement also reaffirmed that Member States of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) should "remain guided by their Constitutions".

The SADC Chairperson, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, sent a ministerial team to negotiate and check on the wellbeing of the President, R.G. Mugabe, who soon after, officiated at a graduation ceremony, capping graduates of the Zimbabwe Open University as their Chancellor.

His wife was not present, nor were three senior ministers who are accused of large-scale corruption and may have been arrested, including the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education who would normally be present at a university graduation ceremony.

Local media coverage drew parallels with the Gang of Four who caused confusion in China in the last years of Chairman Mao Zedong, and included his wife.

The Law Society of Zimbabwe did not condemn the military intervention, but issued a public statement noting the assurances of peace and calm, and respect for the Constitution, as well as the undertaking not to interfere with the independence of the judiciary.

While the public stance is that negotiations are deadlocked/ongoing over the demand that the President should step down immediately and his insistence on waiting for the party congress in December and finishing his term of office in the middle of next year, an active mobilization is also ongoing for the party to recall him and for mass action this weekend. sardc.net

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