By Leo Munhende
WHEN Zimbabwe’s long serving President Robert Mugabe lost to arch-rival Morgan Tsvangirai in the highly disputed 2008 presidential elections, he declared he was not going to allow his power to slip off via the “pen” (ballot) when it was in fact , delivered through the “gun” (liberation struggle).
Unbeknown to him, he lost his grip on power through the same gun.
Mugabe’s once trusted backers in the military seized control of power in a recent and well-choreographed, bloodless coup which has received marked support from both the masses and some regional actors.
The intervention came on the heels of Emmerson Mnangagwa was sacked as Vice President by Mugabe on alleged disloyalty.
Army commander, General Constatino Guvheya Chiwenga said the military action was on behalf of the Zimbabweans and a protest to Mugabe’s continued persecution and purging of Zanu PF members with a military and liberation history.
We take a quick rundown of events in Harare, players involved and what they mean to both the general Zimbabwean public and the international community.
Chiwenga’s ‘bloodless’ Coup
General Chiwenga’s ‘coup’ has restored Zimbabwean patriotism which had been eroded by Mugabe’s misrule and abuse of power. He has become the nation’s saviour at a time opposition party politics were fast becoming monotonous and increasingly divided.
Together with Major General Sibusiso Moyo who led the takeover of state broadcaster (ZBC), Chiwenga has become the face of a new independent Zimbabwe but the main question is how Mugabe’s army came be so bold and daring against the man whose grip on power has never been a secret.
“General Chiwenga has paved way for the nation to speak out. May SADC support us at this time,” Liberty Doro told state run The Herald.
The army did not exercise force because it had won over the support of the masses, a factor Zanu PF’s youth league which vowed to defend Mugabe never thought would ever happen.
If it were Mugabe in a position of power in this revolution, the streets of Harare would have been flooded with marauding bands of youth militia and the ‘captured’ ZRP tormenting ordinary citizens.
Our army is however incapacitated when it comes to the defense of the country’s borders against external aggressors as it is neither well-resourced nor motivated.
It has then become a conduit which is facilitating political civility and economic development of the country for the future.
Zimbabwe has always been a military state only run by a civilian leader who has been given that blessing by the army.
Opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai knows this hence he has never thrown them any diatribe.
Chiwenga and his coterie of Generals have realised that which opposition and civil society have been searching for the past 18 years.
He has been bold, at one time telling South African president Jacob Zuma and his SADC delegation of negotiators to keep their distance and allow Zimbabweans to solve their problem first.
The most powerful politician in Zimbabwe’s political matrix today has lived up to his moniker, Ngwena (Crocodile). His shadowy character has manifested itself in this masterplan coup which has captured the whole of Zanu PF and positioned him for eventual take over.
While in exile in South Africa, Mnangagwa effectively masterminded Mugabe’s recall at party level and likely impeachment.
Mugabe’s party their leader the same way he did to others.
Surprisingly, all the party’s 10 provinces which only weeks before, had endorsed Mnangagwa’s ouster, made a dramatic u-turn and started rooting for the now Zimbabwean leader.
Mnangagwa is naturally vindictive, he shares that character with Mugabe and ‘Gucci’ Grace, the former president’s wife.
There will now be an account of all those who wined and dined with him.
How social media has helped inform the masses
During the week long political gridlock when Mugabe was kept under house arrest, social media, with prominent characters like NewsDay owner Trevor Ncube taking the lead went abuzz, claiming Mnangagwa’s vindictive character was at play.
Popular social media platforms, WhatsApp, Facebook and Twitter were the main information sources for the generality of Zimbabweans as the army remained tight-lipped on developments at the Blue Roof (Mugabe’s private residence), choosing to declare that ‘all is under control’.
There were reports indicate that the kingpin of the infamous Generation 40 ‘Cabal” Jonathan Moyo, his close ally Saviour Kasukuwere and Finance Ignatius Chombo were in army custody per Mnangagwa’s directive.
The army has labeled them ‘thieves bent on destroying the nation’.
Popular microblogging platform, Twitter has been one of the main sources of information, bringing on the dot ‘fake’ and some truth though Zimbabweans seem not to care.
Twitter officialised the alleged capture or arrest of a host of others ministers, members of parliament loyal to the ousted leader, further heightening tension in the streets of Harare.
Social media brought the people onto the streets of cities across the world and have made the revolution more of an intervention by the people without however taking anything away from what General Chiwenga has done.
Citizen journalists increased the reach of pictures and videos of the revolution via these platforms.
It is their efforts which shared with the world these events at home. Their efforts challenged SADC, AU and any other international body’s considerations of military intervention to defend the tyrant.
They came in their millions with South African public broadcaster, SABC News putting the number at just over 2.5 million in Harare alone.
More gathered in urban areas such as Bulawayo, Gweru, Mutare and Victoria Falls as well as across the globe.
“You let a man have a very long rope to hang himself. He is cornered with nobody feeling sorry for him or even wanting anything to do with him,” said Tshinga Dube a former cabinet minister in Mugabe’s government, recently fired for failing to rebuke War Veterans who showed disdain for Mugabe.
Mugabe’s demise was of his own construction. His party recalled him, parliament instituted processes to impeach him, forcing him to resign.
Gucci Grace and Moyo just sped up the process.
Zimbabweans have spoken! Aluta Continua!
Leopold Munhende is a socio-political analyst based in Harare and the Young Journalists Association (YOJA) communications manager. He can be contacted on [email protected]