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Zimbabwe’s military coup: A Mugabe’s phony project

L/R: President Mugabe, Grace Mugabe, Ex-VP Mnangagwa, and Army Chief Chiwenga

PRETORIA, SOUTH AFRICA —The world roused up last Tuesday, November 14, 2017, to unending news stories of a military takeover in Zimbabwe, and that Grace Mugabe, the 52-year firebrand wife of the 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe, had escaped or was flown to Namibia while the rest of the Mugabe’s family stayed in the country in safe condition.

The hotbed news flashed across the world. Zimbabweans in the country and around the world danced, cheered, chanted and rejoiced.  Advocates for democracy guessed and second-guessed.  Political scientists, analysts, and commentators deduced and rationalized the unfolding events and the key players in the country’s coup and the ‘what next’ moments, including the way forward.  Western nations, largely considered nemesis of Mugabeism hoped and emboldened, thinking a new beginning was on the horizon. But little did anyone realize that the Zimbabwe’s military ‘coup’ was the making of veteran leader, Robert Mugabe, to temporarily protect his legacy, family and stolen wealth.

Globe Afrique uncovered detailed facts and explanation surrounding the unfolding circumstances in the country. The facts point to Mugabe self-realization of his limitation and inability to govern the country with an iron fist anymore.  He also realized that he had prepared or grown no other image, other than himself, with much of cloud to entice the country toward maintaining the Zimbabwe African National Union––People Front (Zanu-pf) party in power after his demise now or in a few years from now.  And Mugabe, while he may not be conscious of many things, is, however, aware, at 93 years of age, that he is operating on injury time; he can and may die at any moment.

The recent military coup in Zimbabwe is fake, unreal and remains a calculated attempt from a crooked president in undercutting the opposition from taking power through a free and fair democratic process should he die at any moment.  Mugabe wants continuity, not an unnecessary interruption. The fake military coup, which was and continues to be largely staged and managed by an army comprising of loyalists of the Zanu-pf and Mugabe himself, had remained the only viable and non-destructive option for Mugabe.

Video Credit: The BBC News

According to sources close to the planning and discussions leading up to these unfolding events, allies of the aged president had advised him that they were scared that they would not have any way of protecting his legacy, something Mugabe unapologetically seeks when he is no more.  Despite his past governance errors, Mugabe wants to be seen in Zimbabwe as Mandela is in South Africa.  While this is a stretch and far off possibility, that is at least his vision.

The following reasons, according to the sources, were key factors discussed from time to time among Mugabe’s most trusted aides in reclusive areas.

  1. The citizens of the country are unhappy: Mugabe and his Zanu-pf top leadership are cognizant that majority of the citizens are unhappy with the way the country is being run and especially the trend of their economic situation.  Mugabe and his aides suspect that majority of the voting public would prefer a change in political leadership after Mugabe’s rule. That means the opposition might take state power in the next presidential election, and undo everything Mugabe has done in the last 37 years of his rule.  More importantly, it would mean that the Mugabe family and his top allies might also face prosecution or inquiries ranging from their material possessions to past actions in government.
  2. There is also support for a change in Zimbabwe: President Mugabe and his top Zanu-pf aides realized that there is national and international support for a change in Zimbabwe. That means there is no way that the ruling party can hold on to power if the process were to be done through the ballot box, and especially if Mugabe is not on the ballot as the presidential candidate.
  3. Cooperation and relationship with the west: Mugabe and his top aides within the Zanu-pf have become increasingly aware that any peaceful transition of leadership within the ruling party that would ensure that the party holds on to state power would not obtain support from the other vehement bloc in the party and from the west. Mugabe and his trusted aides believe the west as opposed to the economic and political governance of Mugabe and the party.  Hence, the possibility of undermining the transition and the suppressing the new leader who may not have the same capacity to withstand western pressure is more likely.

The above reasons and more threaten the party and worry Mugabe who is deeply concerned about his legacy and who, of late, operated under a façade.  He had drawn more to a strong belief in God and has been making serious attempts at seeking forgiveness for his past deeds (both during his days as a revolutionary leader and as the despotic ruler of his country) through penance, as prescribed by his Catholic faith.  His personal chaplain and spiritual guidance, a Roman Catholic priest deep in Mugabe’s inner orbit can be credited with the internal and secret reckoning of the aging leader.

The intent of the veteran Zimbabwean leader has been to forge national reconciliation between his popular and dominant ruling Zanu-pf party and rest of Zimbabwe, including the opposition groups.  However, he feels he does not have a willing partner from the inside.  His wife Grace “Gucci” Mugabe, a powerful woman and someone who has been nicknamed “Gucci” because of a taste for luxury shopping and waste, had become not only a marital caretaker of the elderly leader, but the de-facto ruler of the country who allegedly operates and directs national policies from the couple’s bedroom while President Mugabe unwillingly advances them in public.

The overbearing influence and pressure of Grace Mugabe had become too much for the aged leader who sources say prefers his loyal surrogate, dismissed Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, as the heir apparent to 90-year-old leader.  But the conflict between Grace Mugabe who has been supported by a bewildered sect of party’s loyalists on one hand and Mugabe’s most trusted and long-time aide, Mnangagwa, was too much and became personal, affecting the president’s marriage and relationship with wife Grace.

Globe Afrique’s sources say the president discussed the matter with another trusted aide and ally, military chief, General Constantino Chiwenga, and his top military brass.  The workable solution recommended to the president was that he takes a decisive action. According to the sources, the president had told his closest aides that his choice to succeed him is his trusted lieutenant Emmerson Mnangagwa, code-named “The Crocodile” but that what he would do was to sack Mnangagwa from the government, make him falsely flee to South Africa and then stage a military takeover.  Under that arrangement, the veteran leader allegedly told senior military aides that the dismissed vice president would return, take over the party and the government so that he (President Robert Mugabe) retires.  That way, the source said, First Lady Grace Mugabe and her allies in the Zanu-pf party, as well as the country’s opposition groups, would not only be neutralized but that the intra-party fight would have ended in the ruling party.

President Mugabe attends and speaks at graduation after the army claims it had taken over power from the 93-year old.

Throughout the events of the fake coup, the military chief was with President Mugabe and his family, and the president had instructed the top military brass that he wanted everything peaceful and that the army should ensure that no looting takes place and civilian is harmed. In fact, the military chief and Mugabe were chatting, shaking hands, drinking and at times laughed at how the entire episode unfolded.  Both were also getting regular feedback from across the country and the world on Zimbabwean reaction and that of people around the world.

Days later Mugabe drove from his immoderate “Blue Roof” residence in the capital, Harare where he had allegedly been restrained since he pretentiously ordered troops take to the streets, to State House, where media pictured him meeting with military chief Constantino Chiwenga and South African ministers sent to intercede in the alleged crisis.

There had been no official outcome of the meeting, leaving the country’s 13 million people blindsided and in the dark as to what had happened over the past few days, and what is the way forward.

Other inside source informed Globe Afrique that the president’s next move is to stage a resignation or retirement ceremony making it appear that the army had offered him a graceful exit.  To give his wife Grace Mugabe and the fierce opposition groups the expectation that he is forced out, the Zimbabwean leader wants everything to be conducted within the configuration of military’s involvement when there is no real military coup.

Video Credit: The Economist

The mainstream western media hopped around this fact with almost none daring to deliberately state the observable – that the ‘coup’ in Zimbabwe was and is a setup from the start, that President Mugabe, his dismissed Vice President, and his army chief stage-managed the events to create appropriate conditions to carry out a plan of Zanu-pf continuity of power from Mugabe to Emmerson Mnangagwa and military chief Constantino Chiwenga.

One Zimbabwean activist, in an interview, told Globe Afrique that the so-called army takeover in Zimbabwe is a poor stage performance. He said Mugabe and the Zanu-pf’s collaborators will use the made-up coup attempt to thwart political change and skew efforts for transparency and accountability in the country.

The staged military takeover is a smart move and a victory for President Robert Mugabe who has made several political and economic mistakes in the past, particularly so when conditions in the country were near an explosion.  But with the so-called army takeover, those who are for and against Mugabe will all unite and move the country forward in peace while the veteran leader’s legacy, family, and assets remain protected in a peaceful Zimbabwe.  Hence, if one were to critically analyze the fake military takeover, the conclusion would be that the only person who is expected to obtain the maximum benefits would be President Robert Mugabe–the architect of the Zimbabwe’s Military Coup Project.

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Ben Mabande

Ben Mabande is a researcher and senior contributing reporter with Globe Afrique Media.

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