Live from Harare
November 18, 2017 5:21 AM   Subscribe

Ten of thousands of Zimbabweans are in the streets of Harare after the Zimbabwe Defence Forces and the Zimbabwe Republic Police approved a rally led by the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association against President Mugabe’s continued stay in office. Mugabe was placed under house arrest earlier in the week in what the army insisted was not a coup. This appears to be the culmination of a power struggle between Mugabe's wife, Grace Mugabe and recently ousted vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mugabe, now a billionaire in one of the world's poorest countries, was once considered a revolutionary hero after leading Zimbabwe to independence from Great Britain.
posted by clawsoon (30 comments total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
The army's continued insistence this is not a coup, and that Mugabe is still President, while otherwise completely operating as if they are in control is quite interesting. I've heard government officials toeing the line that everything is continuing normally (in interviews with western journalists; no idea what it's like inside the country), which makes this a bizarre situation. I haven't heard of any bloodshed or mass arrests yet, so either they have very effective control of communications or this is a very different beast from most military transfers of power.

This will be fascinating to watch from a political perspective, less so if the situation breaks down.
posted by GhostintheMachine at 5:51 AM on November 18, 2017 [4 favorites]


A comment I've read in a couple of places is that most people are celebrating the end of Mugabe, but not celebrating any of the people who are maneuvering to replace him. Neither Grace Mugabe nor Emmerson Mnangagwa seems all that pleasant. Zanu-PF has a Politburo, so perhaps my being reminded of the Gang of Four and Lavrentiy Beria isn't too off-base.
posted by clawsoon at 6:53 AM on November 18, 2017


This reminds me of those medieval revolts where they insisted they were not rebelling against the King, they only wanted to save him from his wicked counsellors.
posted by Segundus at 7:21 AM on November 18, 2017 [9 favorites]


One of my students is from Zimbabwe and he said that while there were tanks in the streets and people were generally trying to stay home there didn't seem to be much to worry about for the average person. He said that his family isn't worried, and also that they don't expect their lives to be any better (or worse) no matter the outcome.

Oddly enough, I also have an old friend who grew up in Rhodesia (his parents were missionaries), and he personally knew Mugabe 40 (maybe 50) years ago.
posted by Literaryhero at 7:23 AM on November 18, 2017 [4 favorites]


... after leading Zimbabwe to independence from Great Britain.

OH HELL NO. Let me fix that for you-- "After leading Zimbabwe to independence in the war against the minority white regime in Rhodesia." Which for more than 15 years was an unrecognized government that seized control of the nation in order to thwart the British plan to institute majority-rule democracy in the post-independence colony. We can blame the UK for a lot of things, but in then Rhodesia and now Zimbabwe they have consistently worked for peace and representation for all people.

Other than that minor error, fine post. Thank you for putting it together. The West really needs to pay more attention to these changes occurring in Africa, and in so many ways Zimbabwe is a bellwether for the region.
posted by seasparrow at 7:26 AM on November 18, 2017 [24 favorites]


There are some pretty strong geopolitical and economic reasons to keep the fig leaf of "not a coup" in place. Once you admit to having had a coup, you face sanctions & etc. Until and unless you get acknowledged as the legit government, anyhow.

Best to skip that declaration of being the new revolutionary leader part and just keep rolling with the deals in place, claiming nothing has changed, if you were the beneficiary of said deals? And the ZANU old boys network certainly were the beneficiaries of whatever deals anyone could make in Zimbabwe the last several decades.

Some other background-

Zimbabwe is one of two African countries WITHOUT an AFRCOM presence.

Mugabe and ZANU had been, and continued to be rather well connected to China, which helped fund and arm their civil war against the Smith regime.

Africa is the mat for a good bit of the ongoing geopolitical wrestling match over control of natural resources, multinational profits and world power. Chinese are, perhaps, doing a bit too well there for some in the USA & EU's taste. Not that THAT ever has anything to do with these obviously purely internal power struggles. Oh no. Never.

The ousted VP (who is nicknamed "crocodile") was moving towards USA/England.

For some background beyond the "golly, gee whilickers, what's up with that?" level information in US press? See the comment section here:
The non coup coup?
posted by bert2368 at 8:33 AM on November 18, 2017 [9 favorites]


The West really needs to pay more attention to these changes occurring in Africa, and in so many ways Zimbabwe is a bellwether for the region.

I agree that Zimbabwe is a bellwether and could be a catalyst for other coups to come. However, it's not the West that's already been paying attention. It's China.

• It was China, after all, that supplied guns and money to prop up Mugabe even before he assumed power.
• Many of Zimbabwe's revolutionary-era military officials received training in China.
• When the EU and the West imposed sanctions after Zimbabwe's contested election in 2002, Mugabe went right to China for support (and got it).
• Various sources report China financing at least 100 infrastructure projects in Zimbabwe. During his visit in 2015, Xi Jinping committed $5 billion USD (£3.8 billion) in direct aid and investment.

Zimbabwe is China's backdoor into Africa. There is no evidence (yet) of Chinese involvement in the coup, but it's a sure bet that it would not have taken place without their tacit support.

Links to learn more: here, here, and here.
posted by zooropa at 8:35 AM on November 18, 2017 [4 favorites]


@ zooropa.

[quote]There is no evidence (yet) of Chinese involvement in the coup, but it's a sure bet that it would not have taken place without their tacit support.[/quote]

WHY exactly would the Chinese support a coup to bring back the VP who intends to move AWAY from China and towards USA?
posted by bert2368 at 8:40 AM on November 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


WHY exactly would the Chinese support a coup to bring back the VP who intends to move AWAY from China and towards USA?

Fair point. My guess would be money. The West isn't exactly ponying up with cash.
posted by zooropa at 8:58 AM on November 18, 2017


seasparrow: OH HELL NO

Thanks for the correction. I'll ask the mods to update the post so that inaccurate information isn't sitting on the front page.
posted by clawsoon at 9:08 AM on November 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


[It sounds like a more complex correction than we generally make to posts, which is better handled by leaving the post text as-is and letting seasparrow's comment make the point.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 9:29 AM on November 18, 2017 [2 favorites]


@ zooropa-

(Quote)

WHY exactly would the Chinese support a coup to bring back the VP who intends to move AWAY from China and towards USA?

Fair point. My guess would be money. The West isn't exactly ponying up with cash.
(End quote)

You are going to have to explain that line of reasoning a bit more before it makes any sense, to me at least.
posted by bert2368 at 9:33 AM on November 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


This reminds me of those medieval revolts where they insisted they were not rebelling against the King, they only wanted to save him from his wicked counsellors.

The Pilgrimage of Grace [Mugabe]?
posted by tivalasvegas at 9:40 AM on November 18, 2017


You are going to have to explain that line of reasoning a bit more before it makes any sense, to me at least

Mere days before the coup, General Constantino Guveya Chiwenga (part of the coup) was in China talking about how Zimbabwe and China were eternal friends and gosh they’re so grateful for all the help over the years. Subsequently various elements of the Chinese government are on record as saying hey his visit was planned ahead of time, it was totally coincidence and this coup thing is entirely up to the Zimbabweans, it’s really too bad how Mugabe turned out in the end and we have no opinion at all on this how could you ask us that question?

...so, tell me, do you honestly think China was surprised in any way? Do you honestly think they didn’t approve of what he had in mind?

Or are you proposing that they’re all incompetent buffoons?
posted by aramaic at 9:55 AM on November 18, 2017 [2 favorites]


zooropa, I can't really make sense of "Zimbabwe is China's back door into Africa." You're saying it was, back in the 80s? These days, in terms of investment and aid influence, China is walking in the front door all over the continent.
posted by col_pogo at 11:05 AM on November 18, 2017 [3 favorites]


This isn't a coup because the Army has always been in control of Zimbabwe. This is an internal Zanu PF power struggle kicked off when Mugabe tried to install his crazy wife into power and kicked his VP Emerson Mnangangwa out. Mnangangwa, being tight with the Generals, then got them to show Mugabe who truly is in charge. Just a reminder that Zanu PF lost the elections in 2008 but the Army beat the opposition to a pulp and forced an uncontested run-off vote. The Army are in no way interested in a freer Zimbabwe.

I said back in 2011: "Mugabe is a missed Army salary payment away from the business end of a noose and a street lamp." and his recent actions (egged on by his wife and other non-veteran advisers) was threatening their access to money and patronage.
posted by PenDevil at 12:09 PM on November 18, 2017 [14 favorites]


Generation Mugabe: 'he has normalised the abnormal'
posted by adamvasco at 1:31 PM on November 18, 2017 [1 favorite]


Maybe the powers that would like to be, don't want Grace to take the money, remarry, and leave with it. Maybe they will relieve him of his billionaireship thereby relieving her of a reason to stay.
posted by Oyéah at 3:12 PM on November 18, 2017


The other thing worth bearing in mind, if I remember correctly, is that the African Union cannot interact with, or support in any way, a government formed through a coup. It’s hard-wired into its constitution (for good reason).

So, whether executed out of genuine concern for the citizens of Zimbabwe or not, it is emphatically not in the interests of those involved for this to be classed as a coup.
posted by garius at 3:19 PM on November 18, 2017 [3 favorites]


Hope, delusion on the streets of Zim
This week, the people of Zimbabwe celebrated their hated leader’s overthrow in characteristically Zimbabwean fashion: they did nothing. They waited five days before taking to the streets to demand what the military had already achieved – the removal of Mugabe. For the rest of the week, Zimbabweans simply went about their normal business of being placid and accepting of whatever the gods give them.

Well, what the gods have given them is Mugabe’s younger and more evil sibling.

The 75-year-old Emmerson Mnangagwa, the man who will take Zimbabwe into its “new” future, is the ugliest face of its past. As one of those at the heart of Zanu-PF’s securocratic core, Mnangagwa was central to some of the worst atrocities of the Mugabe regime.
posted by clawsoon at 9:51 PM on November 18, 2017


>the British plan to institute majority-rule democracy in the post-independence colony

as in Hong Kong?
posted by marycatherine at 5:24 AM on November 19, 2017 [1 favorite]




It looks like the international pressure against a coup, as pointed out by bert2368 and garius, is giving Mugabe his one remaining bargaining chip: He doesn't have to quit until impeachment proceedings are completed. It'll be interesting to see whether or not he holds on until the bitter end, or takes an opportunity to escape early with maybe some of his fortune and his life.
posted by clawsoon at 7:11 AM on November 19, 2017


Here is a recent (Monday 20 Nov 0400 GMT) New York Times update, with interesting background on the two factions, Lacoste and G-40. Also fascinating story of military infiltration of airport baggage handlers to prevent the General's arrest by police on return from China. Like something out of a movie, but seems to have actually happened.
posted by seasparrow at 8:14 PM on November 19, 2017 [2 favorites]


Zimbabwean Speaker of the Parliament: Mugabe resigns amid impeachment proceedings.
posted by runcifex at 9:12 AM on November 21, 2017 [1 favorite]


By the sounds of that article, runcifex, there's currently no president because there was no vice-president? What's the rule of succession in Zimbabwe, I wonder?
posted by clawsoon at 4:41 PM on November 21, 2017




What's the rule of succession in Zimbabwe, I wonder?

I think Xi Jinping is interim head of government, but this may not be written down anywhere.
posted by dhartung at 10:37 PM on November 21, 2017


Known as The crocodile.
posted by adamvasco at 7:50 AM on November 22, 2017


This coup-but-not a-coup is certainly the biggest piece of news in sub-saharan African for the past week or so.

The Military command has clung to the end to the fallacy that it was not a coup but a democratic transfer of power. Whatever. And most African governments are more than happy to say so too, lest they be forced to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe when nobody really wants to.

As for the Zimbabwe Herald, that ZANU-PF mouthpiece, I hope they'll be forced into a walk of shame of sorts.
posted by Kwadeng at 5:53 AM on November 23, 2017 [1 favorite]


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