18 November 2017

Zimbabwe: All-Weather Friends China and Russia Wink As Mugabe Put to the Sword

Photo: New Zimbabwe
President Robert Mugabe (file photo).

President Robert Mugabe's all-weather friends appear to have deserted him as he battles a military coup with none of the countries he considers allies speaking against the development.

Mugabe, together with several government ministers, have been under house arrest since early Wednesday following a military take-over supposedly aimed at containing out of control factional fights in Zanu PF which have affected the economy and threatened stability.

Political analyst and visiting Rhodes lecturer Mike Mavura said Mugabe's allies were primarily concerned about protecting their national interests.

"In politics allies are fickle and interests are permanent. Mugabe is 93-years-old and, for his allies and their interests, pragmatism kicks in. Do you publicly support Mugabe at this moment and risk being in the black book with whoever takes over?" he queried.

"Those unschooled in the long game have made embarrassing U-turns as we have seen with Kudzanayi Chipanga. International allies are however, much more sober minded and will be thinking about their long term interests hence a wait and see approach."

Although SADC and AU have met to resolve how to deal with the situation, none of Mugabe's international friends have made pronouncements to the effect that he be allowed to finish his term and condemning the military.

Maxwell Saungweme, a seasoned political analyst, said, to the countries, Mugabe and Zimbabwe are not worthy fighting for.

"No one would risk their reputation by defending an overstaying 93 year old running down a tiny country with an insignificant population, trade and market wise with a tiny GDP, huge political risk and bad governance. Everyone wishes Mugabe a good retirement," he said.

Zimbabwe Defense Forces major general Constantino Guveya Chiwenga met his Chinese military counterparts a few days before he would stage a "coup" where he expressed his willingness to "deepen exchanges and cooperation in all fields with China to promote the rapid development of bilateral state and military relations between the two countries".

Having kept mum after the "coup", when contacted for comment, Chinese Foreign Affairs spokesman Geng Shuang only said would not discuss specifics while Li Zuocheng, chief of the joint staff of China's People's Liberation Army (PLA) "China and Zimbabwe are all-weather friends".

China is the largest foreign investor and a key ally to Zimbabwe. Nevertheless, analysts have said China has permanent interests and only loyal to the one with power.

Political analyst Zechariah Mushawatu said it was wise that these countries, who business interests are vast in Zimbabwe, been seen to be neutral at this point or else risk losing their investments.

"Most of Mugabe's allies, especially China and Russia, whose major interests are business, realize the folly of striking deals with a man who is a few years shy of reaching a century. Nature can take course at any time and whatever arrangements they would have made with Mugabe could come to naught," Mushawatu said.

"It is much wiser for these people to play it safe and not antagonise the major political players currently running the show so that these countries will have somewhere to start if a new political dispensation is ushered into Zimbabwe. The Chinese like to deal with whoever is in charge. And frankly speaking, right now Mugabe is not in charge."

South African president Jacob Zuma sent representatives Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula minister and the Gupta linked Minister of State Security, Bongani Bongo, who have been to broker a deal with little success.

Prior to that, he issued a mild statement calling for calm and restraint and for the ZDF to ensure that stability is not undermined and called Mugabe who told him he was safe and fine.

Zimbabwe's military has seized control of Harare and said it is acting against "criminals" surrounding 93-year-old Mugabe. But a military spokesperson has denied this is a coup.

Mugabe was even allowed to officiate at the Zimbabwe Open University this Friday.

Another close ally to Mugabe has been Russia. It's deputy prime minister Yury Trutnev landed in South Africa on Thursday only to tell the media that Mugabe failed to manage the economy and hence the country's leadership should fix the problem.

Worse Equatorial Guinea long time president Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, who himself survived a coup some time ago, has remained mum three days into the coup.

However, another analyst Dewa Mavhinga said the little available information points to a soft coup which gives no reason for allies to speak against the military.

"It is unclear who is in touch with Mugabe and what kind of support he has, from the images of him taken after the military takeover it appears he is fine, perhaps with no need for a firm stand to defend him unless the situation escalates.

"South Africa's president Zuma, who is also SADC chairperson, said he spoke to Mugabe and said it was too early to intervene, giving Mugabe and the military space to negotiate," he said.

SADC will hold an extra-ordinary summit this Saturday after the initial meeting failed to come up with a position. The meeting coincides with a war veterans' rally where thousands of people from across the political divide are expected.

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