Wow – that was fast!

On the 9th of November (six days ago) I wrote that the Mugabe era was at its end and that all that remained was who, when and how? Well we now know – it was Emmerson Mnangagwa; it took just 48 hours; and it was in the form of disguised coup. Today as I write the leadership of the G40 faction in the ruling Party has been detained, many are in hiding or on the run, some resisted and last night there was some gun fire and explosions and I understand some close security people were shot and killed. This morning there was a clear statement by the Army that they have taken charge.

How did this happen? Mnangagwa has been in the Cabinet for 37 years, vice President for 3 years and a close confidant of Robert Mugabe for over 50 years. He fully expected to be named Mugabe’s successor after he engineered the Zanu PF electoral victory in 2013 but instead was sidelined in favour of the then Vice President Joice Mujuru and was demoted to Justice Minister. He never abandoned his ambitions and in 2014 he engineered the ouster of Mujuru and took her place in the Presidium.

Even then Mugabe continued to play games and he appointed a second Vice President whom he stated was Mnangagwa’s equal. This was followed by a carefully orchestrated campaign to oust him led by the younger leaders in the Party and the wife of the President. This campaign culminated in an outburst and verbal attack on him at a Rally in Bulawayo two weeks ago. This was followed on that Sunday by a meeting between the President at the Armed Forces where the President informed them he was going to dump Mnangagwa. On Monday the deed was done and when his close security was withdrawn, Mnangagwa fled the country via Mozambique with military top cover.

After a whirlwind series of short trips and meetings, he met with the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces in Johannesburg, afterwards, Chiwenga travelled back to Harare where he was met by a Military Convoy who escorted him to his home. On Sunday Chiwenga issued a long (5 page) statement in which he said the Army would not stand by while the State was captured by people who did not deserve that place. This was interpreted as an ultimatum to Mr. Mugabe.

On Monday the President met with the Joint Operations Command (the JOC) and made little progress. On Tuesday he chaired a long Cabinet meeting and while this was underway, the Army moved. Heavy equipment and a Battalion of Troops entered the Capital and strengthened the Presidential Guard. By late afternoon a full-blown exercise to take over the State was underway. During the night, gunfire and explosions rocked the northern Suburbs and in the early morning it was announced over State TV and Radio that the Army had taken control.

It is my understanding that the whole leadership of the G40 faction in Zanu PF are either in detention or on the run. In addition, another list of leaders is being sought and will be detained if they are caught. The President is being held under protective custody at home and his wife has been allowed to fly out of the country. It is also rumored that Mnangagwa returned to Harare yesterday afternoon.

I fully expect that Mr. Mugabe will shortly (Friday) announce his retirement and the appointment of Mnangagwa as the new interim President of the Republic of Zimbabwe. One week, seamless, ruthless and virtually bloodless. Wow! Always something new out of Africa.

The real question is what next?

This exercise has been long in planning and is being managed against a clear timetable and set of goals. Mnangagwa is a clever man (a full Barrister at law) and a clever strategist. He is also ruthless and feared. He does not have a clean background and is partly responsible for several programs that involved gross human rights abuse and even genocide. But he is not known as a corrupt individual and certainly has a clear understanding of what is required to get Zimbabwe back on its feet.

He also knows that for this to happen will require the support of the international Community which will not be an easy call. Many countries will be very skeptical and cautious in their dealings with any post Mugabe regime that does not have clear democratic credentials – credentials that Mnangagwa knows will be nearly impossible to secure.

For these reasons I think we will see a Cabinet reshuffle this weekend followed by negotiations to form a national government that can meet the case for credibility and real change. Providing this has a broad base of capable individuals it may work. The future of Zimbabwe and the region may depend on it.

I know that a great deal of uncertainty swirls around the situation in the absence of any clear statements by any of the persons involved. Since the takeover on Tuesday night, the Army has maintained a blackout on news and statements. I have no doubt that Emmerson Mnangagwa is behind the scenes pulling strings and directing activity.

SADC has become involved and everyone is behaving as if they have power and influence here. They have none and no regime in the region has any capacity to either take on the Zimbabwe Army or to put real pressure on the people here. South Africa with its trade, transport and financial links could bring pressure to bear but this is very limited. I see no sign that they are prepared to take on the situation to keep Mugabe in power.

I cannot see the Army backing down and certainly not Mnangagwa. As for President Mugabe – he has no real support left in the country. The War Veterans have abandoned him, the armed forces are clearly at one on the action taken, the mood on the streets is of jubilation and relief that the end of his regime is in sight. No one has called for him to be kept on and the chorus of figures calling for his resignation grows by the day.

If Mnangagwa does become President soon, I have no doubt that he will have to consider forming a transitional government which represents the broad interests that make up the Zimbabwean population. He must then face the international Community and they are going to demand that he commits the Government to a free and fair election as soon as possible with a clear road map and time lines; they are going to demand that he returns to the Lima Agreements negotiated in 2015 and 2016 and that he implements the new Constitution in full, returns to the rule of law, respects property rights and lifts all restrictions on speech and association.

Under the Lima Agreements and an IMF guided program he will have to accept a return to fiscal probity, limit the fiscal deficit to a 3 per cent target, reduce expenditure on the Civil Service and lift restrictions on trade and foreign exchange. Overall this is a tough call, but unless he does this there can be no reengagement with the international Community, no resumption of aid and no assistance from the multilateral agencies. Without that help, the downwards spiral of the Zimbabwe economy will continue, inflation will devastate people’s lives and destroy much of what is left of Zimbabwe’s economy.

Eddie Cross
Harare, 15th November 2017