18 November 2017

Zimbabwe: All Makings of a Blockbuster in Mugabe Standoff With Military

Photo: Damien Glez/This is Africa
Damien Glez of This is Africa on developments in Zimbabwe.

Harare — EVENTS in Zimbabwe over the past few days read like a script taken straight from a blockbuster movie with suspense, tragedy and comedy.

It all started with an announcement by the army they had taken over operations of the country and the First Family of President Robert Mugabe placed under house arrest, but according to the generals, it was not a coup but an operation to flush out "criminal" elements surrounding the aged leader.

Also arrested, it was reported were G40 faction kingpins Jonathan Moyo the Minister of Higher and Tertiary education, and Local Government and Housing Minister, Saviour Kasukuwere. Also arrested was Finance Minister, Ignatious Chombo, whose security personnel, it was reported was shot dead during confrontation with soldiers.

However, days after it emerged Mugabe, the commander-in-chief of the Defence Forces was under house arrest, the military displayed public relations office of the highest order by allowing Mugabe to continue with his normal business duties. On Thursday, Mugabe attended a graduation ceremony at a local university. He was authorized to continue his stately duties but under close military watch. However, Moyo could not attend the Zimbabwe Open University graduation ceremony as he was under house custody.

The whereabouts of Mugabe's wife, Grace, remained unknown although unconfirmed reports claimed she was seeking refuge in Namibia. As the army's PR continued, the ruling Zanu-PF has re-instated all provincial structures sympathetic to the sacked deputy president Emmerson Mnangagwa. These were purged amid plans to prepare the First Lady in Mugabe's place. She would assume the deputy presidency at an elective congress set for December. Provincial structures had been ordered to toe the line.

In a strange turn of events, the war veterans, over the years staunch supporters of the Mugabe regime, on Saturday embarked on a vociferous march to demand the resignation of Mugabe. Ahead of the march in the capital Harare, they expressed solidarity with the military forces of Constantino Chiwenga to remove Mugabe from power.

In another dramatic turn of events, most Zanu-PF provincial structures, which in prior days to Mugabe's removal were advocating for Grace's endorsement, passed a vote of no confidence against Mugabe. They declared the 93-year-old leader a huge liability for the past 37 years. Out of the ten provinces, eight provinces supported the stance by the military.

Masvingo, Midlands, Manicaland, Matabeleland north and south, Mashonaland West, Mashonaland East and Mashonaland Central all called on Mugabe to step aside. Bulawayo and Harare were still consulting other structures before making a full statement.

To add Mugabe's woes, the solidarity march by the veterans of the liberation struggle was successful. Churches, opposition parties and civil society joined the march.

"We applaud the ZDF. They are professional in their conduct. They have done their part. We are giving a chilling warning to Mugabe and his cabal that it's done. We are speaking as Zimbabwe not as various political parties," said Christopher Mutsvangwa, the leader of the country's former freedom fighters. He said the war veterans respected the opposition parties in the country but urged all who joined their solidarity march did so without wearing any political affiliation.

"(MDC-T leader Morgan) Tsvangirai respects our security forces because he knows these are the important institutions to the nation. You must remember that in 2008 our generals saluted Tsvangirai in parliament. Mugabe's shelf life is now only as long as that of fresh milk. People should come out as Zimbabweans to make a statement," Mutsvangwa said in a statement.

Tsvangirai reiterated, "Mr Robert Mugabe, please resign."

Another critic that repeated his call was Botswana President, Ian Khama. He has broken ranks over the years with other Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders. Ironically, South African President Jacob Zuma, the SADC chair called for an urgent meeting in Botswana to address the crisis. Zimbabweans were urged to embrace peace.

ZDF also called for peace during the solidarity march. "The ZDF is therefore advising the nation that for as long as the planned march remains orderly, peaceful and in tandem with the fundamental bill of rights and within the confines of the country's constitution and without hate speech and incitement to cause violence, it fully supports the march." It also encouraged marchers to be disciplined and dignified.

In the statement, the military said steady progress had been made and there had been no variation from original objectives. "Contrary to certain media reports which the ZDF believes are being generated by some of the culprits who have been apprehended, the nation is being advised that the operation remains solid and at the same time Zimbabweans are being requested to be patient."

ZDF commended the business community who have responded overwhelmingly to the call to normalise socio-economic effects to the population of Zimbabwe by adopting realistic prices.

The rank and file of the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) also pledged the support to the military operations in a statement.

"We as members of the Zimbabwe Republic Police junior ranks (Assistant Inspectors and below) are real happy that you (military) have liberated us from these senior officers who have been using us for their own benefit.

"Now the whole populace of Zimbabwe hates us with passion because of these stingy commanders who deployed us in all roads with the aim of milking the general public of their hard earned cash. As junior members we are real happy about this new development as it will save us against this apartheid police man called Justice Chengeta."

The police officers expressed hope a "New Zimbabwe" would be born and transform from police force to police service. "We also expect that our colleagues who were unfairly dismissed from the police be reinstated and we serve our country without any fear or favor," the statement sent to CAJ News read. - CAJ News

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