A Military Coup, by its very definition, describes the illegal overthrow of a state and seizure of power by the military. The Zimbabwe Military Coup, like many other past coups in Africa, doesn’t seem to be bothered by this definition though. Instead of creating a new power structure, it seems most concerned to leave everything as is.
While it’s not necessarily a rule of thumb that a coup d’état always changes power structures within the country, most coups do. The situation in Zimbabwe is more complicated and unique than that though. If the Military Coup is successful, and it certainly is so far, it may exchange the head of state, but it won’t necessarily be for the benefit of the population.
Zimbabwe is a Corrupt Mess
The nation of Zimbabwe was a British colony until it rose up and eventually became independent. Current President of the country, Robert Mugabe, was one of the key players in the conflict and would continue on to become the first Prime Minister of Zimbabwe after the war in 1980 with his party ZANU-PF. Since 1987 he has been President of the country, installing an authoritarian regime that has suppressed its people and has been accused of several human rights violations.
Robert Mugabe held his position as dictator for 30 years now, and the country has suffered a great deal under his rule. Apart from human rights violations, the country is not doing great economically either. Hyperinflation, corruption and economic crashes were regular occurrences during his reign. The country loses at least 1 Billion per year due to corruption and its poor economic performances are often deflected by Mugabe to be caused by western countries. He was a hero of the revolution and continued to play the role of a revolutionary rising up to western capitalist countries, no matter if it made sense or not.
ZANU-PF vs. The Mugabe Dynasty
Robert Mugabe is 93 years old and reportedly in bad health. It was just a matter of time until he would have to step down – willingly or not. The country is a one-party state under the ZANU-PF, therefore his succession is an internal party affair. That is precisely the problem and background for the Military Coup.
The ZANU-PF is split between two Mugabe successors. Emmerson Mnangagwa and Mugabe’s wife Grace Mugabe. Emmerson Mnangagwa was Mugabe’s Vice President, loyal ally and another figure from the revolution. He and Grace Mugabe had several open displays of tension in October of this year. Poison allegations and questions about loyalty to Zimbabwe and Mugabe were part of it. Robert Mugabe publicly stood with his wife, dismissing Emmerson Mnangagwa who was forced to flee to South Africa.
While the ZANU-PF may be divided by the potential successors, Emmerson Mnangagwa is backed by Zimbabwe’s Military, which condemned Robert Mugabe’s actions against Mnangagwa, coining him as Mugabe’s successor. The Military obviously would like to see a loyal revolutionist from the war at the helm, not the wife of their soon-to-be former President.
The Military Coup: Robert Mugabe Won’t Step Down Willingly
On November 14th, 2017, tanks were rolling into Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, seizing the National Broadcasting Stations and other parts of the city, including Mugabe’s residence. The Military immediately announced that their move was not a coup. Well, it is and isn’t.
Mugabe is under military house arrest and was urged to step down, which will ultimately lead to a return of Emmerson Mnangagwa. Robert Mugabe has, so far, not given in. The ZANU-PF was in the process of sacking him and his wife and proceeded to do so yesterday. The military has announced it would let protesters lynch Mugabe and not defend him if he doesn’t step down quietly. In an address on Sunday Mugabe didn’t show any signs of wanting to step down, there is a deadline set for today – what happens after is not yet clear, but the army is unlikely to step down.
While this certainly has the feel of a revolutionary military coup, especially if protesters would end up violently lynching their old and abusive leader, it certainly isn’t. There is no indication that, apart from a change in the presidential position, anything would change for Zimbabwe’s population. Those are the people that suffered most under Mugabe and will continue to suffer under this authoritarian state, no matter who takes control of this situation.
It remains to be seen how the situation develops, but much like most coup d’états in the African region, this is far from a significant change for the people. It doesn’t change the system, it just changes the facade.
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