Zimbabwe in a Political Transition

Source: Internet

By Naveed Qazi | Editor, Globe Upfront

President Robert Mugabe, the self-styled ‘grand old man’ of Zimbabwe was forced to resign after 37 years in power under pressure from the army and ruling ZANU-PF party in the November 2017 coup d'etat.

As an incentive for his political retirement, he and his wife will receive millions of dollars, as a 'golden handshake'. He also has been granted immunity from prosecution.

When a caravan of armour vehicles was spotted by journalists two weeks back in November 2017, it seemed that a coup against the former President was in the offing.

This nonagenarian leader at 93 has been the longest-serving leader in Africa and is often called as Zimbabwe’s Gaddafi. He had been dismissed because he was believed to have lead the collapse of the economy and instigating heightened repression and poverty.

It also seemed that his resignation on public TV was because of succumbing to pressure, pitted by some powerful public organisations. The head of the powerful organisation of war veterans accused the President of being “deaf and blind to the wishes of the people”. Christopher Mutsvangwa, the former member of ZANU PF party, had recently threatened to “call out the crowds again to do their business”.

Zimbabwean military had been angered about his latest move toward ousting the former Vice President, Mugabe where his supporters had been unhappy about his dismissal. The army wanted to fix the political situation as they believed something bad was looming in their government affairs. But many critics have accused the military of taking the government down for their own benefits that include rackets and many money seeking means.

When the new President Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn last week in November 2017, the opposition was unhappy about his comments, when he said that he regarded Mugabe as his mentor.

"He led us in our struggle for national independence. He assumed responsibility for leadership at a formative and very challenging time," Mnangagwa said, in his speech. "To me personally, he remains a father, mentor, comrade in arms and my leader."

At the same time, he had vowed to end the policies of the erstwhile ruler and wanted to bring more jobs to the country.

The opposition believes that this change of leadership is a choice based on elitism and not a people’s revolution. They believe that Mnangagwa, as Mugabe’s yes man, will just keep the status quo intact.

He also has been accused of being an accomplice with Mugabe, for the long-standing human rights abuses in the country, in postcolonial Zimbabwe. Western powers such as Britain and the United States were accused of keeping a willful silence to the perpetrated genocide.

It is believed by people that while working with Mugabe, Mnangagwa lead the feared Zimbabwean intelligence agency, as well as the defence and justice ministries that heightened state oppression and brutality.

Most importantly, Mnangagwa has been tainted by accusations of his involvement in the Matabeleland massacres in the 1980s, along with Mugabe. In January 1983 Robert Mugabe’s government launched a massive security clampdown in Matabeleland. It was led by a North Korean-trained, almost exclusively chiShona-speaking army unit known as the Fifth Brigade. They committed thousands of atrocities, including murders, gang rapes and mass torture.

Mugabe’s government called the operation as 'Gukurahundi'. In chiShona language, it was a metaphor for blood spilling violence, meaning “for the rain that washes away the chaff (from the last harvest), before the spring rains”. It is estimated that between 10,000 to 20,000 unarmed civilians died at the hands of the Fifth Brigade.

At the current point in time, tens of thousands of people had gathered in Harare, in National Sports Stadium, cheering, dancing and waving the national flags. These developments do reflect the optimism of the masses, as they see the former vice president sworn in as their leader.

By getting stirred up by emotions through populism, it is not uncommon seeing people cheering for leaders who have accumulated political failures and have blood on their hands.

In the past, Zimbabwe had been regarded as the breadbasket of Africa. But in Mugabe’s time, the country suffered economic mismanagement, absenteeism, red tape, food shortages and widespread corruption. His land reform programmes declined the agricultural output, especially during the Fast Track Land Reform Programme in 2001.

The production of staple food such as wheat and maize on an average never surpassed 10%. The unemployment rate has hovered around 90%. At this point in time, Mnangagwa, as a new leader, has promised to fight corruption and bring public funds stashed in foreign banks by individuals and companies back to the home country.

In a Guardian newspaper article, correspondent Jason Burke wrote on November 18th, “the only jobs are in government service, yet salaries are rarely paid. The best and the brightest have long fled abroad. Warehouses are empty, fields lie fallow. The busiest store in rural villages is the bottle shop, selling dirt-cheap spirits."

In another article on 26th November 2017, he wrote,"roads are rutted, many rural communities have no electricity, education is basic and healthcare almost non-existent. A life expectancy of 60 is one of the lowest in the world.”

In an important development, Zimbabwean activist pastor, Evan Mawarire has been acquitted by the court for trying to overthrow former president Robert Mugabe in protests last year that shut down major cities and paralysed public transport. The judge made Mawarire free of charges because he had called for non-violent protests in response to the country's economic crisis last year.

On social media such as Twitter, users have used slogans such as #FreshStart and #NewZimbabwe to register their protests.


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