The headline on the Zimbabwe Herald could not have made it clearer: “Police tighten noose on Grace Mugabe.”
The newspaper, for 37 years the mouthpiece of Robert Mugabe’s government, is now the voice of the new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa. He replaced Mugabe when the long-time leader was deposed in late 2017. Over the last couple of months the Herald and a number of other Zimbabwean media outlets have published detailed accounts on police investigations into former first lady Grace Mugabe’s suspected role in ivory smuggling.
The first of these stories, less than two months after Mnangagwa took office, said the former first lady was being investigated for “illicit and illegal activities”. Information said to have come from the very top of Mnangagwa’s government implicated the former first lady in an organised crime ring “responsible for the poisoning of hundreds of jumbos in the country”. She was also accused of illicitly obtaining ivory from legal government stocks and either illegally selling it or exporting it as gifts for high profile foreign allies.
Zimbabwe is one of the key elephant range states and home to Africa’s second largest estimated elephant population of nearly 83,000 individuals, following Botswana. Though there are high elephant numbers, alarms have been raised over poaching in the country including the use of cyanide poison to kill large numbers of them. The first reported case of this was in 2013 when a single massacre of over 100 elephants happened at Hwange National Park. Since then it has become a common means of poaching throughout the country’s protected areas.
As more and more evidence has been leaked to the press, the government’s intention to prosecute her for ivory and rhino horn smuggling has become clear. If she has been involved in illegal wildlife trading and has links to poaching, then she should be prosecuted and, if found guilty, punished. But this is also all incredibly useful for the new president who stands to benefit politically from these investigations.
Mnangagwa needs to embed himself in power as presidential and parliamentary elections are due to be held later this year. For this, he needs to ensure the unity of ZANU-PF – Zimbabwe’s ruling party since independence – and root out any pockets of pro-Grace supporters.
Grace Mugabe was his major rival to succeed President Mugabe and acted with her husband’s support to sack Mnangagwa as Vice-President in 2017. This led to a military backed coup which forced the Mugabes to step down and saw Mnangagwa elected leader by ZANU-PF.
Though Grace Mugabe lacks the party’s majority support, she does have backing from a group of younger ministers and party officials known as Generation 40. If she is found guilty of these crimes, she could end up in prison and so politically neutralised. Also, by pursuing her on ivory and rhino horn smuggling charges, Mnangagwa averts accusations of political vindictiveness.
The move to pursue Grace Mugabe also wins the new leader international favour. Far from being criticised for oppressing political opponents, Mnangagwa would be praised for making a stand in the protection of elephants and rhinos – which, today, has huge global concern. Between 2007 and 2014, the African elephant population declined by 144,000 animals.
The government may also be attempting to put a lid on past accusations against Mnangagwa, who was said to be the godfather of rhino horn smuggling operations. Partly through his role as Mugabe’s director of intelligence, he was accused of being involved with supplying horns to Chinese buyers nearly a decade ago. But before any judicial hearings or convictions, the police docket, in the hands of then Attorney General Johannes Tomana, disappeared.
Within a month of coming into power, the stress on conservation became part of the new government’s narrative, creating a discourse which places Mnangagwa as a conservation stalwart and Grace Mugabe as a corrupt ivory smuggler.
Now, there are clear signals that the government is amassing evidence to make a stand against poaching and prosecute Grace Mugabe. Mnangagwa’s special advisor, Ambassador Christopher Mutsvangwa, summed up the case:
We received a report from a whistleblower…Police and the whistleblowers laid a trap for suppliers believed to be working for Grace Mugabe. The culprits were caught and that is how the investigations started. When we were confronted with so much evidence, there was no way we could ignore; we had to act.
If the allegations are true, then her actions are against CITES trade regulations, which bans the international trade in ivory. Zimbabwean law also outlaws poaching and the trade in ivory from poached elephants. It is also illegal, without a certified permit that meets CITES conditions, to remove ivory from the legal government stockpile for export and sale.
This is the first legal action against the Mugabe dynasty since Mnangagwa was elected president and appeared to allow the Mugabes a graceful exit. It could become a major political victory for the new Zimbabwean president, sanctioned by law and bolstering his international reputation.
Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Monday said nearly $600 million in illegally externalised funds has been returned into the country under a 90-day amnesty and named corporates and individuals that have yet to repay over $800 million in a list dominated by diamond miners.
Mnangagwa’s amnesty expired last month but only $591 million out of an estimated $1,4 billion in funds illegally stashed abroad was returned, he said in a statement, adding that those that did not comply could face prosecution.
The published list showed 1,884 individuals and companies, and firms in the mining, agriculture, manufacturing sectors and cross border freight businesses had the highest amounts spirited abroad.
The struggling African Associated Mines allegedly externalised $62 million while diamond miners, Marange Resources (54,2 million), Canadile Miners ($31,3 million), Mbada ($14,7 million) and Jinan ($11 million) are on the list. Government was a 50 percent shareholder in all the diamond miners, which operated in the Chiadzwa diamond fields.
Marange, Mbada and Jinan were among the seven miners shut down in February 2016 for resisting nationalisation while Canadile, a joint venture between Lovemore Kurotwi’s Core Mining and the stateowned Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation suspended operation in 2010.
Operations at Shabanie and Gaths asbestos mines ground to a halt in 2008, three years after the government seized them from Mutumwa Mawere, under a controversial law that allows the state to take over assets of businesses deemed to be insolvent and incapable of servicing loans and charges owed to state institutions and agencies. The mines were subsequently placed under Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation (ZMDC).
It is not clear from the list when the funds were externalised.
The funds were for export earnings that were kept offshore, payment of imports that never made it into the country and funds stashed in foreign banks.
- The Source
One never forgets their first job. For me it was not the work experience that left an indelible impression, though it was appreciated. It was that one day at work when all seems to be ordinary and then mundane, routine tasks are disrupted for just a few minutes and everything changes.
It was a hot summer’s day, the typical Harare heat burning us up. Hope was on the horizon; the type that brings storm clouds on a clear day to usher in rain. I worked until 4pm in a popular grocery store located in the affluent suburb of Chisipite. Unannounced, a burly stout imposing figure approached the till with a broad smile and distinctive round cheeks.
It was Morgan Tsvangirai himself.
A man of the people
We all knew who he was. A seasoned trade unionist, that face most often featured on newspapers’ front pages. A thorn in the side of Robert Mugabe and his regime, Tsvangirai was the man with whom Zimbabwe’s working class most identified. Many times when a stay-away was called and we didn’t go to school, this smiling customer had been the chief architect. To some, he was seen as a messiah.
Others saw him as little more than a rabble rouser and accused him of being the root cause of Zimbabwe’s economic decline and political hostility.
On that day, he was clad in his party t-shirt and holding a basket full of groceries. All the attention in the shop was centred on him. But Tsvangirai was a man of the people, and shifted that focus back to those around him. He engaged in small talk, bemoaned the lack of rain – the earth was dusty and thirsty for a drink, he said.
Approached by two mothers with suckling infants, he expressed his desire that the Zimbabwean health system would improve so that no child would ever have to die of malnutrition or another preventable ailment again.
He teased a young man in a Zimbabwe football t-shirt. Zimbabwe, Tsvangirai said, would qualify for the next soccer world cup.
As a young man doing his first job during that long hot summer, I gained more than work experience that day. I got life experience from a man who was not only simple but humane. There was a dissonance, too. This couldn’t be the same man the state told us brought sanctions and troubles to a country once viewed as Africa’s breadbasket. He’d even been blamed for keeping the rain from falling.
His parting shot to us that afternoon was sobering, and arresting. It challenged all the stereotypes and falsehoods that had been circulated as facts. Walking out, unaccompanied by bodyguards and fresh from chats with the many ordinary Zimbabweans in the store, he said:
Don’t be afraid of the idea of change. A new Zimbabwe is upon us and we need you.
A unique power
That was Morgan Tsvangirai’s unique power. He made Zimbabweans excited about the idea of change. Our ability to dream had been quashed. But he wasn’t afraid of this idea of change – he even had the bruises to show for it.
It is a hope and a dream he never let go of. Frail in his last days and consumed by cancer, Tsvangirai saw some of that change begin to unfold. It’s sad that he will not be around to experience the next steps on Zimbabwe’s journey. But his ability to make us dream will live on,even beyond his own life.
His legacy, ideologies, and simplicity carry the nation of Zimbabwe forward.
In his inaugural address the new President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, confirmed that land reform was both historically necessary and irreversible. He also made a commitment to compensate farmers who were forced off their land during the fast track land reform programme of the 2000s.
Many international commentators read this as a sign of a more inclusive stance that could benefit economic recovery. Indeed, the recent reinstatement of an evicted white farmer is perhaps an indication that things are changing. Mnangagwa has no option but to tackle land reform if he’s serious about getting Zimbabwe’s economy back on track. This is because agriculture continues to play a significant role.
Zimbabwe’s major land reform, starting in the year 2000, resulted in around 6,000 farms owned by about 4,500 farmers and companies being taken over. Former owners, most of them white commercial farmers, were evicted, sometimes violently.
Today around 145,000 households occupy 4.1 million hectares under smallholder resettlement schemes. Another 3.5 million hectares are used by about 23,000 medium-scale farmers.
One of the new government’s major policy priorities has to be to get agriculture moving as a motor of growth. The long-running issue of outstanding compensation payments has meant that international donors and financiers have not engaged with land reform areas, missing out on supporting major development opportunities.
Agriculture remains a mainstay of Zimbabwe’s economy. People on the resettlement farms are producing significant quantities of food and other agricultural products. For example, in the last season over half of the 2.2 million tonnes of maize produced in the country, as well as 60% of total tobacco output worth nearly USD$350 million, came from land reform areas. These numbers make it clear how vital they are to Zimbabwe’s struggling economy.
Fixing the system
Former commercial farmers held land under freehold title. In some cases bilateral investment agreements, mostly with European countries, also governed ownership. Yet, as part of the reform, land was expropriated by the state and allocated to new users. Initially this was done without regard to these rights.
The lack of redress, and the ongoing contestation over ownership of land, has caused uncertainty. This in turn has affected growth and investment. Many western countries have refused to undertake work in these areas, linked to a wider sanctions regime.
Resolving the compensation question is vital for seeking a way forward for Zimbabwe’s agricultural sector. Of course offering compensation is not a new policy. Compensation for “improvements” on the land has been on offer for years. It was reconfirmed by the 2013 Constitution, negotiated by all political parties.
To date around half of all farms acquired during land reform have been valued by the government. In parallel, others have been valued by private surveyors and ValCon, an organisation backed by former large-scale farmers. So far around 250 compensation settlements have been reached, amounting to a payment of around USD$100 million. For farms where land was acquired under bilateral investment treaties, compensation for both land and improvements must be paid, adding to the costs.
What’s been missing has been the capacity to undertake valuations of the remaining farms; the funds to pay compensation; as well as the political will to see it through.
This may now have changed under Mnangagwa. A commitment has been made to a process of auditing, valuing and paying compensation, linked in turn to the issuing of 99-year leases and permits to use the land.
Who will pay and how?
The total compensation bill is likely to run into several billion dollars. Who will pay – and how – are the big questions.
A mix of payments across different liabilities will be required. There will be private components, such as equipment that a new farmer is using, that will have to be paid off by larger-scale farmers. This payment can be done over many years through mortgaging arrangements, with upfront payments by the state to former owners.
For smallholder farmers, the “improvements” designed for large-scale farming have been less useful. And their ability to pay is much less. Here state or aid funding of compensation will be required. Other public assets – such as a dam, a road, a building now being used as school or as an extension workers’ house – are more appropriately paid off by the state, or as part of a donor-financed or debt-rescheduling scheme.
Quick resolution is essential
Nearly 18 years after the land reform most evicted farmers want a quick, pragmatic solution. This has dragged on for too long. Former white farmers are ageing and are in urgent need of pension support. Others have moved on to different businesses or left the country. This is about acknowledgement, reconciliation and justice.
In a period when there have been currency changes, hyperinflation and dramatic shifts in the economy, valuation will always be an approximate science. While some will continue to contest the land reform in whatever court or tribunal that will hear them, most want resolution – and soon.
Resolving the compensation issue is essential not only to provide redress for those who lost their farms, but also to reduce uncertainty, encourage investment and unlock potential for growth and development.
Mnangagwa’s commitment is a good sign. But it now needs to be seen through, and urgently.
Zimbabwe’s new President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been cautiously welcomed with the hope that he will place Zimbabwe on a more democratic trajectory. He has spoken of a new democracy “unfolding” in Zimbabwe.
But this is wishful thinking.
There are three major barriers to a decisive break from the corrupt and dysfunctional political system that has been playing out in Zimbabwe: the ruling Zanu-PF, its president and what’s been their main sustainer – the military.
None would want to oversee real change because facilitating democratic rule with real contestation for power would mean running the risk of electoral defeat. This would endanger the networks of self enrichment that have been put in place over decades.
Instead, the next few months will see Zanu-PF, Mnangagwa and the military continue to block democracy as they seek to hold onto the power.
The nature of Zanu-PF
Zanu-PF presents a formidable obstacle to democratic progress in the country. Zimbabwe has maintained the outward appearance of a multiparty democracy since independence in 1980. But it’s effectively been a one-party dictatorship.
The party brings a zero-sum game mindset to politics: it must always prevail, and its opponents must be crushed rather than accommodated. Opposition parties formally exist but they have not been allowed to win an election. Should such a possibility arise – as it did in 2002, 2008 and 2013 – elections will be rigged to preserve the status quo.
Zanu-PF provides the most egregious example of the culture of exceptionalism which has characterised the liberation party in power. These include:
the belief that its entitled to rule indefinitely,
its refusal to view itself as an ordinary political party,
its conflating of party and state, and
its demonising of other parties as ‘enemies of liberation’ seeking to restore colonialism or white minority rule.
The way in which Zanu-PF has colonised the state over almost four decades means that there is a vast web of patronage networks that have been entrenched to facilitate the looting of the state’s resources. Democratic change and clean government pose a mortal threat to these networks and such privileges are unlikely to be surrendered without intense resistance.
The new president
Mnangagwa’s ominous record makes it difficult to build a persuasive case that he represents a new beginning.
He served as Mugabe’s “chief enforcer” until November 2017. He was pivotal to the collapse of the rule of law and the implosion of the Zimbabwean economy. And he has been a central player in the gross human rights abuses that have characterised Zanu-PF rule. This includes the killings in Matabeleland killings in the 1980s. This is a past for which he has refused to acknowledge any responsibility.
His more conciliatory language has not matched his actions. After becoming president he appointed an administration of cronies, military hardliners and ‘war veterans’.
The appointments appeared to consolidate the power of the now dominant faction of Zanu-PF: the old guard securocrats who routed Grace Mugabe’s equally malign G40 faction through the barrel of a gun rather than democratic processes.
Having waited such a seemingly interminable length of time to land the top job, it is difficult to envisage Mnangagwa now placing his hard earned spoils at the mercy of a programme of democratisation.
The Zimbabwean Defence Force’s role in the removal of the president means that it has secured a place for itself as a privileged political actor and overseer of the entire political system.
The defence force has never been a neutral custodian of constitutional rule. Instead it has always been a highly politicised extension of the ruling party, a party militia in effect.
Previously its role was confined to repressing the ruling party’s opponents and maintaining the party’s dominance. The principle of civilian rule was respected even if this model of civil-military relations failed to meet any reasonable democratic standards. But with the coup, the military crossed a line. They determined the outcome of power struggles within the ruling party itself.
In the same way that the military has been politicised, the political system has been heavily militarised. This can be seen in the several key military veterans who have been appointed to the cabinet as well as Mnangagwa being the military’s candidate for the presidency. Essentially this is the civilian face of quasi-military rule in Zimbabwe.
What this points to is an effective “barracks democracy” emerging in Zimbabwe. The military has secured a veto over the leadership of the ruling party and over the wider political process. It also reserves the right to reject election results that it does not approve of, or to take action that could prevent such results materialising in the first place.
To see the military’s removal of Mugabe as an overriding good ignores the fact that it has no concept of the national interest, or that it views that national interest as synonymous with its own and Zanu-PF’s.
It is dangerously naïve to expect such a force to help facilitate genuine democratic transition when its entire raison d’etre has been to preserve one-party rule (under a leadership of its choosing), to disable meaningful opposition and to preserve its own corruption networks.
True democratisation – as opposed to merely maintaining the procedural forms of democratic government – is anathema to Zimbabwe’s ruling party, its president and the military.
It is evident that their task is threefold over the next few months. They have to secure support for a measure of liberalisation; arrest political enemies for corruption rather than tackling corruption per se; and provide a smokescreen of a largely vacuous democratic rhetoric.
The hope is that this will be sufficient to secure aid, investment and an endorsement by external donors while virtually nothing changes in the actual power relations inside the country.
Anyone committed to democracy in Zimbabwe -– whether inside or outside the country – should begin mobilising against this project sooner rather than later.
Retired army chief Constantino Chiwenga, who led a de facto coup last month that ended Robert Mugabe's 37-year rule, was installed as Zimbabwe's vice president in Harare on Thursday.
Chiwenga, who led the military in a de facto coup that brought Mnangagwa to power, is the latest in a string of military leaders to be elevated to government positions. President Mnangagwa, who did not give a speech at the swearing-in ceremony, ,told journalists that his deputies will have to drive the performance of the new ministers.
"They have to drive the ministers. The performance of ministers will be reflected by the supervision they give," said Mnangagwa.
Chiwenga also told journalists that: “What I can tell you is that there will be teamwork . We are going to work as a team and we will deliver.”
Mnangagwa, who is under pressure from opposition parties and the public to implement political and economic reforms, has ordered his new ministers to come up with 100-day ‘quick-win’ plans.
Hefty pension for Mugabe
On the Thursday, Mnangagwa granted Mugabe full diplomatic status and a staff of 23 as part of his pension.
In a government gazette, Mnangagwa said former presidents who have served at least one full term will have six security personnel, two each of drivers, aides, private secretaries and office attendants as well as a fully furnished office.
Mugabe has been living at his private home in the plush Borrowdale suburb even while he was president and his new pension entitles him to "payment of a lump sum which is equal or equivalent to the value of the private residence,” according to the gazette.
The former leader has a reputation for extensive international trips, but his pension allows him four trips outside the country travelling first class at public expense. He will also be provided with a diplomatic passport. He visited a hospital in Singapore for his first trip outside Zimbabwe since he was ousted from office, apparently for medical checks, two weeks ago.
- The Source
Farmers in Zimbabwe are anxiously watching their crops, fearing the return of a plethora of new pests that recently spread to the southern African nation and devastated harvests this year.
Many cannot afford pesticide - or lack the knowledge - to control fall armyworm, tomato leafminer, cotton mealybug and other newcomer pests that arrived as climate change creates warmer, more conducive conditions.
"We don't know what is happening," said Lovemore Muradzikwa, a small-scale maize farmer in the Mafuke area of eastern Zimbabwe, who said he has already seen some of the pests return. "There are small worms destroying our crops. They are eating even wild plants. We don't know what they are," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Shifting weather patterns linked to climate change - including longer droughts and more intense rainfall - are making farming more uncertain across much of southern Africa. And the arrival of new pests - some of them adapted to the changing conditions - is making life even harder for the region's embattled farmers.
"A few farmers have done research about these pests and many poor farmers don't know what to do. We don't know why we are now experiencing these pests which we never experienced before," said Muradzikwa.
Fall armyworm destroyed 20 percent of the country's maize crop last season, according to government figures, at a time when the country was recovering from devastating drought that had left more than 4 million people dependent on food aid.
The pest is a native of the Americas and was first spotted in Africa in 2016. It has since spread across the continent. Zimbabwe's Deputy Agriculture Minister Davis Mharapira said the country is prepared for a possible outbreak this season.
"Our agricultural extension officers are on the ground teaching farmers across the country about fall armyworm. We are advising farmers to report any sightings of fall armyworm as soon as possible," Mharapira said in a telephone interview.
Fall armyworm was first seen in Zimbabwe in September 2016, and became more prevalent in January and February when it was spotted across the country, according to a joint report by the government and U.N. agencies. Some farmers "resorted to handpicking and squashing the worms in an attempt to control them", or used pesticides. But 60 percent of farms affected by the pests did not take any measures to control them, resulting in extensive damage to crops, the 2017 Rural Livelihoods Assessment Report said.
Many countries in Africa have reported other new crop pests and diseases including banana bunchy top virus in Mozambique, South Africa and Malawi, and maize lethal necrosis in Kenya, Tanzania and Rwanda, and elsewhere. Globally, the spread of pests and diseases across borders has increased dramatically in recent years with trade playing a role as well as climate change, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
Lawrence Nyagwande, a plant expert and the Manicaland manager of Environment Africa, a non-governmental organisation, said climate change in Zimbabwe was creating warmer conditions conducive for new crop pests and diseases.
"Agriculture extension officers must work hard to educate farmers about these new pests," he said.
Blessing Zimunya, a farmer and traditional leader in Chitora area, south of Mutare in eastern Zimbabwe's Manicaland Province, said farmers fear the return of fall armyworm this season.
"We are not sure yet whether we will face the same armyworm problem this season. Many farmers were caught unawares ... Farmers do not have knowledge about these new pests," Zimunya said.
(Reuters) Reporting by Andrew Mambondiyani, Editing by Alex Whiting
Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa has revealed how he walked for more 30km to cross the border between Zimbabwe and Mozambique in an apparent escape from his assassination by former President Robert Mugabe's "hunting dogs", reports said.
Mnangagwa said this in Pretoria where he addressed Zimbabwean nationals, who fled economic decline and political turmoil in the southern African country.
"I came here to pay homage to my brother President Jacob Zuma. I spent a good 16 days as a 'Diasporan' here in South Africa after walking some 30km crossing the border into Mozambique. After I had been fired around 4 o'clock (on November 6), intelligence had made me aware of the next move intended to eliminate me," NewsDay quoted Mnangagwa as saying.
"Fortunately, I found a [business] card in my wallet which bore the name of a colleague here, (Justice) Maphosa, whom I phoned and he picked me. I came here and I was well-looked after."
Mnangagwa fled to South Africa after Mugabe dismissed him during factional fighting in Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF party. The firing prompted a backlash against Mugabe and Mnangagwa returned to Zimbabwe, where he was sworn in as president.
Mnangagwa's finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said that the president had been stripped of his security "both physically and at his house" immediately after his sacking from government.
"This showed his security was not guaranteed, hence, he had to become a refugee here [South Africa]," said Chinamasa.
Mnangagwa also revealed that he had been in "clandestine" communication with President Jacob Zuma during his stay in South Africa, a New Zimbabwe.com report said."I had good communication with the leadership here, not openly, you understand," Mnangagwa was cited as saying.
Vehicles using the Victoria Falls bridge between Zimbabwe and Zambia will have to pay up to $30 in toll fees from next year, as the two countries say they need to raise funds to maintain the facility.
The two neighbours share the 110 year old bridge, whose maintenance is carried out by the National Railways of Zimbabwe (NRZ) and Zambia Railways (ZR). In a statement, issued on Friday the Emerged Railways Properties, a joint company owned by NRZ and ZR said the toll fees will come into effect from January 1.
“Following the enactment of Statutory Instrument 171 of 2012 in terms of Section 6 of the Toll Roads Act (Chapter 13:13) published in the government gazette dated 2 November 2012, all motorists traversing the Zambia-Zimbabwe border of Victoria Falls are hereby notified the Emerged Railways Properties will commence the collection of Toll Fees for the use of the Victoria Falls Bridge effective 1 January 2017,” the statement reads.
The Road Transport and Safety Agency (RATSA) will collect the fees on behalf of the two governments at the two border posts and entry points to the bridge. Haulage trucks will pay $30 while buses and mini buses which are mostly used by tour operators on a daily basis will fork out $7 and $5 per entry respectively.
Heavy vehicles will part with $10 while taxis and small vehicles below two tonnes will be exempted, according to the statement. The bridge, said ERP in the statement, is key to the socio-economic life of both countries as well as the SADC region hence the need for regular maintenance for it to cope with increasing levels of traffic.
“It is against this background that the government of Zambia and Zimbabwe have resolved to put in place the requisite legal instrument for the tolling of the bridge. The Victoria Falls toll fees will be used specifically for the refurbishment and maintenance of the bridge in order to guarantee its long term existence.”
The bridge was constructed in 1905 by the Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company and is the gateway to the Sadc region.
Who would have thought that this year would end with Robert Mugabe having lost the presidency of both the governing Zanu-PF and Zimbabwe? None could have foreseen such a development being the work of his ruling party’s inner circle.
The whole development is clearly a product of internal Zanu-PF tensions and actions. The military top brass involved are old standing Zanu-PF cadres that have propped Mugabe up for decades. Emerson Mnangagwa, who has been sworn in as his successor, has been Mugabe’s right hand man for 37 years.
Zimbabweans have every right to celebrate the end of Mugabe’s long and disastrous reign, but they would be wrong to assume that this is the end of their political problems. The same Zanu-PF leadership has taken control of this transition, making it an intra-party matter rather than a national opportunity for deepening democracy as many hope.
Mnangagwa’s first priority will be to ensure consolidation of Zanu-PF power. He may do so by positioning Zanu-PF as a born again party committed to change. He may seize the opportunity to introduce real changes in the conduct of Zanu-PF and government leadership, in economic policies and in rebuilding the social compact by showing greater maturity in relations with other political parties and civil society.
But, as reports surface about the harassment of some of Mugabe appointed ministers and their families at the hands of men in uniform, we are reminded that the military should never be encouraged to manage political problems because they are likely to cross the line of civil-military relations. Excessive use of military power is likely to follow.
Mugabe the survivor
Mugabe has survived many attempts to get rid of him before. These include the efforts of the previous opposition Zimbabwean African People’s Union (Zapu) under Joshua Nkomo in the 1980s, through to the Zimbabwe Unity Movement in the 1990s and to Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) in the 2000s. All these efforts failed because Mugabe has, at times, been popular, at times cunning and at times ruthless in preserving power – for himself and the Zanu-PF.
At times reliance on patronage of indigenous systems of leadership helped Mugabe and the party ward off challenges. Over the past 15 years, Zanu-PF has relied on the crude use of state power, draconian security measures and brutality on the streets.
It has also resorted to buying popularity through measures such as the violent land restitution process between 2001 and 2007.
After 2007, Zanu-PF and Mugabe had to contend with a regional mediation process by the Southern African Development Community after an election they lost, but which the MDC did not win by margins needed to form its own government. Zanu-PF responded by unleashing violence and brutality on opponents. Power sharing, which gave the MDC and its leader Morgan Tsvangarai an opportunity to position themselves as alternatives, saw Mugabe and Zanu-PF play every trick in the book to preserve power.
After Zanu-PF narrowly won the 2013 elections, it seemed that Mugabe and his party had finally prevailed. But the power battles turned inward, as party factions jostled over who would succeed Mugabe.
Zanu-PF power struggles
Various factions in the Zanu-PF have crystallised into two main camps.
The first is Mugabe and his henchmen of the so-called Zezuru group, including top heads of security forces who had wanted Mugabe to continue for a long time. They favoured Solomon Mujuru before he died and later Mnangagwa as a successor.
The second was made up of younger, rather flamboyant group of mainly men around Mugabe Zanu-PF politicians who had gained power and influence in the civil service. This group was known as the G-40. In the past few years this group backed Grace Mugabe as her husband’s successor.
Things have hung in the balance with the G40 gaining momentum because they could influence Mugabe’s judgement and decisions through his wife and nephews. This group could make a call who needed to be fired or isolated – and the president would act accordingly.
For example, when moderates in the Zanu-PF and war veterans touted Vice President Joice Mujuru as possible successor to Mugabe, the G40 aimed a barrage of insults against her and publicly declared that her time was up. Shortly afterwards Mugabe fired her and got her expelled from the party. This deepened divisions within Zanu-PF and intensified concern about the G40 and Grace Mugabe.
The last straw was the firing of Mnangagwa and threats against chiefs of armed forces.
Believing that Mugabe was being manipulated by the G40, the military stepped in to weed out those around the president. What they wanted was to persuade Mugabe to go and for Mnangagwa to replace him in as peaceful a process as possible so as not to destabilise Zanu-PF’s hold on power. The military showed great patience as it set about achieving this outcome.
New forces versus old
Mugabe is gone. A faction of the Zanu-PF that had gained currency around him is being squeezed out of every space in Zimbabwe. A new faction under Mnangagwa is in place.
Mugabe stands as a shadow of continuity behind leaders who have been around him for decades and who have now been entrusted with the renewal agenda. Mugabe has left, but what’s been called Mugabeism remains: both the positive side of vehemently defending the sovereignty of Zimbabwe and the negative side of the brutality of state power.
Mnangagwa and the military have lavished him with generous post-retirement packages, honoured with a holiday in his name and praise. The interim president has warned the deposed G-40 faction of Zanu-PF to return stolen state monies or face the law.
A clean break with Mugabe’s heritage of violence and crude dominance will have to wait even beyond elections next year. Zimbabwean citizens have been energised by their role in removing Mugabe. They would do well to remain vigilant, to press for more fundamental changes in the way the state behaves and insisting on democratic processes in economic policies. Otherwise they will continue to live under one Zanu-PF faction to another without real change in their lives.