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Mnangagwa’s visit to China: the 'easy' way of doing business

By Blessing Vava Zimbabwe’s president Emmerson Mnangagwa is currently in China on his first  visit outside Africa. Mnangagwa’s visit ...

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Mnangagwa’s visit to China: the 'easy' way of doing business

By Blessing Vava
Zimbabwe’s president Emmerson Mnangagwa is currently in China on his first visit outside Africa. Mnangagwa’s visit comes at a time when his government has embarked on a campaign ‘Zimbabwe is Open for Business’ in an effort to attract foreign investment and business opportunities. While the president has been featuring on big international business platforms such as Davos, the visit to China is significant in that it is based on historical bilateral engagements between the two countries that stem back from the liberation struggle. The liberation movement got assistance from China, with military equipment and the training of guerrillas. In this article, I will explain the significance of the visit, the existing bi-lateral relationship between Zimbabwe and China and the implications on democracy and governance in Zimbabwe, especially as the nation, prepares for the harmonised elections to be held in July.

Firstly, the visit in itself is the first official state visit by Mnangagwa outside of Africa signalling the Zimbabwe's new foreign policy thrust. Though the Mnangagwa administration seems to be enjoying massive support from Britain and other European countries like Russia, China still emerges as the main ally of Harare and thus this visit confirms so. The visit comes against the background of a soft military coup that toppled Mugabe. The military intervention happened a day after the arrival from China of the then army commander Constantino Chiwenga. Chiwenga had travelled at the invitation of the Chinese military. China’s invisible hand in as far as the military action was concerned cannot be ruled out, though Beijing denied its involvement. The relations between Harare and Beijing had soured because of Beijing’s concerns about loan repayments.

It was also said then that during Mnangagwa’s visit to China in 2015, China had raised fears about “Mugabe’s age, Zanu PF leadership renewal, Zimbabwe’s investment climate and ease of doing business, the country’s relations with Western countries, government’s failure to tackle corruption and bureaucratic red tape, among other thorny issues.  The Chinese also said they were worried about Zimbabwe’s high political, economic and country risks, as well as poor credit rating.’’ The Zimbabwean Independent quoting an unnamed diplomatic official. The same story also quoted Wang Jiarui, Minister of International Departments, who is said to have told Mnangagwa that Mugabe’s age was contributing to the Chinese’s lack of confidence in investing in the country as it now part of political risk and that they felt he needs to rest and hand over power to someone from a younger generation with the energy and fresh ideas to tackle the country’s economic challenges.

Secondly, it’s now apparent that the visit is a begging mission meant to get credit lines or ‘assistance’ from China as indicated by the state media. What we have to be open about is the intricate details concerning the so-called assistance that is coming from China and for long the deals and the nature of the relationship has been shrouded in mystery and secrecy, thereby casting aspersions that African countries might be giving more than what they are getting. However, there is no distinction of whether it’s a loan or donation. As a matter of fact, the assistance in itself is no free lunch as it is being portrayed. There are implications to it and as we have learnt in other countries how China has taken advantage of the vulnerability of poor countries that have been desperate for assistance, the Sri Lanka debt trap being a typical example. While Mnangagwa has adopted a free market, and winner take all approach as an economic policy framework to investments it is no longer a secret that we are witnessing a ‘partitioning’ of Zimbabwe’s natural resources under the 'Zimbabwe is open for business ' banner.

But is it really open for business or it is just open for exploitation from China?

 Many African countries’ vulnerability has made them negotiate very bad deals in exchange for cheap infrastructure and loans which subsequently trap them in debt. Zimbabwe had by February 2016, not shown commitment in paying at least US$50 million as a payment plan to clear its debts estimated at US$1, 5 billion.

 The Zimbabwean government, just like many other African countries need to negotiate on their own terms, identify priorities, and leverage opportunities to further the country’s interests. The efficacy of the Mnangagwa’s Zimbabwe is open for business path is hinged on the begging bowl and mortgaging strategy. Fundamentally, a diagnosis of Zimbabwe-China engagements is critical to unpack the latest developments; 1) Is the Mnangagwa’s approach new and will it bring the desired development? 2) What is the difference from the so-called mega-deals signed under the Mugabe leadership, is it a continuation or are they new deals? 3) How transparent have been these deals and 4) How are/have they changing (ed) the structure of the Zimbabwean economy, i.e. job creation, ending rural poverty especially in the exploited mining communities by Chinese companies who have been syphoning millions of dollars from their mineral operations? 
In reference to the Chinese mining companies in Chiadzwa, Mugabe lashed out at the Chinese following reports of massive leakages and smuggling of the gems out of the country and failure to develop communities affected by mining activities.
Coup mastermind Chiwenga in China a few days before ousting Mugabe
 Conversely, if we were to do the calculations on the worth of these ‘mega deals’ signed so far it won’t be shocking that the total figure is alarming. And in that scenario, Zimbabwe’s economic woes and cash shortages would have disappeared ever since we started signing these mega deals. Therefore, they can be no doubt that some of the figures being reported in the state media are deliberately inflated to create some sort of expectation and hope especially that elections are around the corner. A brief synopsis on some of the mega deals can buttress the point I am trying to put across. Are they real deals or begging bowls? In August 2014 president Mugabe signed nine mega deals which the Herald newspaper reported as “economic enablers in critical sectors that include energy, roads, national railway network, telecommunications, agriculture and tourism as part of the Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation.’’ The mega deals were supposed to come with a $4 billion aid and investment package of these projects and that also includes a loan amounting to over US$1,1 billion for the expansion of Hwange Power Station and TelOne’s broadband access project. What happened to these nine deals?  In 2012 the government announced that China Railway would invest $1.2 billion to develop a high-speed train route between Harare and Bulawayo. In 2016 the Sunday Mail also claimed that China will provide US$6 billion for national housing delivery and agriculture programmes. Up until today, Zimbabweans are still to realise the implementation or benefits of these deals.

Consequently, we should unpack the latest $500 million mega deals signed by a little known Zimbabwean companies Platinum Agriculture and Princewood Enterprises. A quick google search results on the companies will only give stories from the said deal and interestingly a court case between the companies and a company called Potato Seed Production, raising questions about the credibility of the company and its capacity to deliver. The companies have neither a website nor any other google search hits apart from the $500 million deal reported in the state media. The whole thing seems dodgy typical of Chivhayo’s ‘briefcase’ company Intratek. Do they have the capacity to handle and execute such a big deal? Zimbabwe needs answers. Who is really behind these firms?

Thirdly, that Mnangagwa’s visit is coming a few months before the harmonised elections is also quite significant in terms of understanding China’s role in political and electoral processes in Zimbabwe and it goes against the long-held notion of non-interference approach by China. It is no longer a hands-off policy by China, but it is interested, example being its involvement in Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe’s 2013 elections, and the invisible hand of the Chinese in the Zimbabwe coup.  Already there are controversies with regards to China’s involvement in internal politics in African countries, with Sierra Leone being the latest example where the Chinese were seen wearing party regalia campaigning alongside the All Peoples Congress raising the issue of direct partisan involvement by China in Sierra Leone’s political process. Importantly, it also raises questions on the mortgaging of resources and key national economic assets to get electoral assistance by ZANU PF. In the 2013 elections in Zimbabwe, it was reported that ZANU-PF's election campaign was partly China-funded, with the party for instance ostensibly receiving one million campaign T-shirts from the Chinese government. President Mugabe also told his central committee that China had given them money and vehicles for campaigning. Moreover, a Zimbabwean newspaper quoted an anonymous army intelligence source alleging Chinese bankrolling of the Mugabe campaign. Therefore, this trip  should not be looked at in isolation, but also it is being used under the guise of a state visit but also as a fundraising trip for ZANU PF campaign, thereby undermining our sovereignty. 

The previous paragraphs unpacked China’s role during the coup, but the post-coup reconstruction period raises questions on the democratic implications on Zimbabwe and the myth of China’s non-interference notion. The recently proposed changes in the Chinese political system that removed term limits for president Xi Jinping are a worrying development and raises big questions about democracy. What message are they (African leaders) learning from China in as far as term limits and democracy is concerned? Such a move has serious implications on democratic values as it props up the one leader mentality undermining constitutional democracy and propping up of dictators.

In conclusion, while it is necessary for Zimbabwe to extend its hand to superpowers for business our government needs to reconsider the manner in which it conducts its business with China and other global powers. From the side-lines, it seems that the scale of relations between Zimbabwe and China has been growing but improvements in the benefits being offered to Zimbabwe is less than sufficient to what is expected. It remains an empirical issue whether the relations between China and Zimbabwe have been beneficial. Conversely, the question for policymakers in Zimbabwe is that they should adopt a more circumspect approach towards especially in Zimbabwe is open for business campaign. On relations with China we should be aware of exploitative dangers associated with such arrangements, but more importantly, Zimbabwe needs to be strategic in how Chinese interest can be exploited to Zimbabwe’s advantage. The Zimbabwe-China relations present some opportunities and challenges at the same time, therefore we need a strategy that is embodied in our foreign policy so that we embrace the opportunities offered by the relationship with the Chinese but on the other hand, it should preserve and promote its interests.

Blessing Vava is a blogger based in Chipinge. He can be contacted on blessingvava@gmail.com

Monday, 12 February 2018

The Mnangagwa’s Unfinished Homework: The Need for a True Public Media

By Blessing Vava

Zim's power couple
The media comedies of errors by the Mnangagwa’s from the events of the past weeks have been interesting in the so-called ‘new dispensation’.  Since taking over the reins of the state in November last year in James Bond style, with the assistance of the military, Mnangagwa has been on a massive rebranding exercise aimed at sprucing up his dented historical image.  The man has been working the clock up to rebrand his image. From his dressing and daily governance practices, Mnangagwa has been trying to show the world that he is different from Mugabe in all aspects and this seems to send confusing signals to his fores. 

In contrast to Mugabe the technophobe, Mnangagwa has endeared himself quite well on social media with active Facebook and Twitter accounts in an effort to reach online audiences.  The active presence of the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) leader on the emerging digital public sphere is a realisation of two things: 1. The capability and potency of the social media and 2. That the state media is now unpopular and has dropped in audience and not likely to be effective in reaching the professionals and those in the diaspora. This is largely attributed to the fact that the state media had been reduced to a propaganda outlet a point observed by blogger Takura Zhangazha that it had failed to serve the public interest because of its inclination to the ruling party. The MISA Zimbabwe chapter called for media reforms before elections in their 2017 State of the Media report. Hence Mnangagwa’s coming online should go beyond luring votes or rather a ‘moving with the times’ gesture but prod him to realise the necessity for transforming the public media from being state-controlled propaganda outlet to a truly public media that conforms to the dictates of democracy. I underline this fact because of how Mnangagwa and his supporters had to rely on social media during the height of factional politics in ZANU PF after being blocked from the various public media outlets.
A tale of two 'First Ladies'

While Mnangagwa has been busy on the online outlets and equally dominating front pages and headlines of all state media outlets, his wife Auxillia has had her lion’s share of the coverage. Auxillia Mnangagwa has exhibited an unquenchable appetite for the camera and media attention since ‘taking over’ from Grace Mugabe as the First Lady. In a short space of time, she had made headlines, particularly on the state broadcaster ZBC; hopping from one hospital to another with small handouts as if that will address the myriad of challenges affecting our health delivery system. To sum it all, her antics are nothing short of a seemingly calculated but rather a clumsy Public Relations exercise to build her image as to be different from the previous first lady. In that regard, both the husband and wife seem to find it difficult to find a life of their own outside the long shadow of the Mugabes. There is really no strategy at all on how she should manoeuvre her way and act as the first lady other than to move everywhere she deems with hordes of journalists from the state media to film her while she buys tomatoes from vegetable vendors. If anything this is an abuse of the media and journalists who should be covering public interest stories rather than to be a press team for the First Family.

As if this attention and coverage are not enough, the media-obsessed First Lady is not stopping, she has decided to have the media closer to home.  A few days ago, the Emperor’s wife invited female journalists to state house ‘’to get an appreciation of the challenges they face in executing their duties,’’ as put by the Herald. We were told that ‘’the meeting was the first of its kind by the First Lady of Zimbabwe’’ true, even the attention-loving Grace Mugabe did not go to such levels, but was also notorious for trying to bribe journalists using food handouts. Presumably for favourable coverage. The Herald also reported that ‘’the First Lady promised to donate chickens to the female journalists as a way of empowering them’’ and this is quite clear that this was just another poorly crafted PR exercise with nothing aimed at improving the welfare of journalists in the country. The meeting exposed her limited knowledge as to how the media is structured and how it operates. When you invite the media to your doorstep, it wants to leave the pace with knife edge ideas rather than a promissory note on chickens. The media is a knowledge industry, whose survival rides on the strengthening of ideas from across the socio-economic and political divide.

In addition, Mrs Mnangagwa should know that the media is not part of her office and they should not seek any favours from her, the challenges affecting female media practitioners are broad and well documented and they did not even need an invitation to state house for a banquet. There are many ways in which she can champion the cause and working conditions for women in the media industry and not by donating chickens. It is clear that these antics are a poisoned chalice. She seems to be dangling a carrot to entice the female journalists to report favourably on her ‘philanthropic’ work in a bid to outdo the previous First Lady, Grace Mugabe. In the process, she has ended up exposing herself as an attention seeking and a self-entitled person just like Grace Mugabe.  

In conclusion, I hope the First Lady should be told that in a democracy we need a free and independent media system that not only reports about the positives of the First Family and the First Lady’s projects. The media environment in a democratic state should have equal access for all and not a preserve for a political elite. We need a transformed media system which is free and independent non-partisan and a strong journalistic profession.

Blessing Vuvuzela Vava is a blogger based in Chipinge. He can be contacted on blessingvava@gmail.com and Twitter: @blevava

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Rethinking the opposition and the civil society in Zimbabwe

By Laswet Savadye and Blessing Vava

The November military coup in Zimbabwe marked the end of Mugabe’s 37-year stranglehold on power, as the balance of forces shifted in the ruling ZANU PF party which was being hounded by a succession battle over the past two decades. The talk of succession was treacherous, ambition was sacred, it was taboo to express one’s ambition in ZANU PF and everyone who dared was either expelled or demoted, history is awash with many examples. President Mugabe’s dream was always to be the life president of ZANU PF and the country at large, but that dream did not become a reality as he was forced to exit the corridors of power by the Zimbabwe army generals in a classical coup. 
The last address by Mugabe as President. IMAGE:Joseph Nyadzawo

While the succession question in ZANU PF seems to have been solved the main opposition, MDC-T remains in a quandary with the succession ghost haunting the 17-year-old party, which is struggling to reform and reassert itself.  For 17 years, since its inception in 1999, the party has had one leader in the mould of Morgan Tsvangirai. At its inception, the MDC’s main slogan was ‘Mugabe must go’ a popular slogan which became the hallmark of the party’s campaign message. It was a slogan premised on the fact that Mugabe had stayed too long in power a move which was against the letter and spirit of a democratic model that emphasizes that leaders should be succeeded. Morgan Tsvangirai has long been accused of being a ‘clone’ of Mugabe in the sense that he continues to hold onto his party’s presidency, suppressing ambition and above all the succession debate in the MDC. Tsvangirai’s leadership style has been characterized by allegations of stifling internal democracy, dictatorial tendencies that have resulted in the party splitting twice since its formation. Funny, the MDC and its leader accused Mugabe of staying in power for too long whereas they are guilty of the same. It’s a classic case of seeing a speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your eye?  Consequently, that has left the party weaker with less fortune in the future even after the fall of Mugabe on the political scene.

As the coup was unfolding, it was abundantly clear that ZANU PF was now dealing with its succession, their agenda was clear right from Chiwenga’s November 13 press conference. In the midst of the confusion, the opposition parties in Zimbabwe were caught with their pants down. Without a clear agenda of their own, they joined the ZANU PF agenda, participating in a march that literally endorsed the illegal ouster of President Mugabe from power.  The opposition leadership was clandestinely pushing for some sort of transitional government that would suspend elections next year until ‘adequate reforms’ are achieved. The endorsement of the ‘coup’ by Tsvangirai raised these eyebrows at the same time other leading opposition figures like Eddie Cross who supported the 'coup' at least temporarily. This was in itself a veiled attempt to be included at the dinner table but it was all in vain. Never mind the denials now by the MDC after Mutsvangwa let the cat out of the bag as he boldly claimed that Tsvangirai was negotiating for inclusion.  

Rethinking Opposition and civil society politics
In the wake of renewed ZANU PF, it is in our view that there is now a greater need for the opposition and civil society to rethink strategies if ever they want to remain relevant in the national body politics. It seems for now that the focus is on the 2018 elections, with the opposition and civil society mounting some ‘serious’ voter registration mobilization campaigns mostly in the towns with little of that effort being directed to the rural areas. From our snap survey in the Mashonaland Central area, voter registration is still being manipulated to frustrate ‘First Time Voters’ and the sabhuku’s (Headmen) are alleged to be recording serial numbers of those registered in their villages threatening that they will know where and whom they would have voted for. Most elderly folk in the rural areas are being told that the electronic photos taken when they register will reveal who they voted for.  Some village headmen are refusing to give villagers farming inputs such as seed maize if the villagers do not reveal their voter registration serial numbers. The long disenfranchised aliens who have since been allowed to vote, provided they produce an unabridged birth certificate, will probably not be able to cast their vote as most of them are finding it hard to get the ‘long’ birth certificate. It’s costly and only issued at Makombe building in Harare. Above all, there are also some reports that soldiers who are harassing people by doing stop and search, asking people to show them their serial numbers. And in our view, such ingredients will not bring about a free and fair election.

That is probably the reason why ZANU PF is not talking much about voter registration but rather they are expressing confidence that they will romp to victory in the coming elections. It is disconcerting, that in light of all this the opposition seems rather quiet and we wonder why they are not raising any alarms.

The opposition and the civil society have to be very much strategic and probably revisit the Peoples Charter as it lays bare the aspirations of the people. At the moment they have been reduced to reactionaries occupying the ‘radical’ space. Mass movements cannot be built or led by reactionaries who are detached from the realities on the ground. There is also a section of disgruntled Zimbabweans, especially the ‘intellectual’ class who posit the argument that Zimbabwe’s political quandary can be solved by the formation of a new political party. In this group, it contains those who are disgruntled by the ineptness of the MDC leadership or either they are disgruntled for failing to get positions.

Firstly, we argue here that the only way a movement can be formed is only if it is based on people's daily struggles, not on the basis of massaging inflated egos of self-proclaimed leaders who feel that they have some sort of entitlement based on some past high school Headboy fantasies. Secondly, they need to be embedded in the actual processes of those struggles and not the other way round. Thirdly, they need to organise it as a platform of some sort coalescing around concrete issues and a clear ideological framework. Fourthly, that sort of movement would need four to five years of building it as a platform before becoming a political party. Therefore it is too late for that kind of movement to be formed in time for next year’s election. The onus is upon the opposition to revisit the people’s charter and as tools of analysis to solve the political puzzle and chatting a way forward for Zimbabwe.

Beyond the politics of electoralism and election cycles
As we brace for those elections which would be held with no reforms to talk about it is prudent to remind the opposition and the civil society that elections are not won by movements that campaign for elections.  Winning elections is a consequence of an entirely different aspect altogether, it requires to always being with the people's struggles whether for land or education; whether for political rights or liberties; whether for jobs or for clean water; whether for housing or against state violence. In simple terms, if you are with the people they already know your manifesto for change because it's already a daily reality of their lives. So you don't 'go to the people if you have been part and parcel of their daily struggles and not on the eve of an election. You are with them already. It is the same if we look back to 1999, the working class identified with Morgan Tsvangirai and the ZCTU. The students knew ZINASU. The same with the women's movement they knew their leaders and activists so did the landless farmers and homeless. Social power and political power is manufactured in the daily grind of the struggle and it might have to be a simple struggle based on class analysis, class solidarity and class political action. Everything else is hot air including suddenly popping up with tonnes of Biometric Voter Registration blank affidavits.

About the authors:
Laswet Savadye is a former student leader, a budding academic, human rights activist, socio-economic analyst and commentator with a special focus on Africa. He can be contacted by email on laswet@gmail.com

Blessing Vava is a blogger based in Chipinge. He can be contacted on blessingvava@gmail.com. Twitter: @blevava

Monday, 20 November 2017

Zimbabwe’s unending wild goose chase: from the ‘people’s revolution’ to ‘Operation restore legacy’

By Blessing Vava

Zimbabwe’s 93 year old despot Robert Mugabe’s 37 years hold on power has been checkmated and has reached its end after the military put him on house arrest last week. In a Hollywood style of events that left the whole world amused and confused whether to call it a coup or not coup, something that puzzle military scholars for some time. Whatever interpretation, the reality is that a coup was executed in Zimbabwe and we are currently in a transition to a new dispensation and this signifies a shift in the power dynamics, particularly in the ruling party. Already, high ranking cabinet ministers have reportedly been detained by the military and more arrests are expected. Unprecedented though that a majority of Zimbabweans welcomed this ‘coup’ and have participated in huge numbers in the call for President Mugabe to step down. No doubt Mugabe is finished, the march to state house and the rally in Zimbabwe grounds was a decoy 'people's popular uprising' meant to disempower regional bodies like the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the African Union (AU) and United Nations (UN)not to censure Zimbabwe’s military apparatchiks. Essentially, Zimbabweans were taken on a wild goose chase by the military hawks despite warnings from Blogger Takura Zhangazha that this was a purely ZANU PF succession affair when all this charade started.
'Coup plotter?

Zimbabweans had suffered under Mugabe’s 37 years iron fist rule to an extent that they had reached a point that anything else and not Mugabe was good. One thing for sure, the calls for Mugabe to go attracted Zimbabweans from all walks of life; from the opposition, civil society, churches, civil service, the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF), the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Alliance, the National Rainbow Coalition (NRC) among many others and other sections of society. However, there is a danger to it in the sense that whatever is happening is not a people’s agenda, it is not a people’s revolution but a rearranging of chairs on the ruling party’s high table.  My fear is premised on the fact that, most people just want Mugabe to go without laying on the table what we envisage for the future of our country. This is the same dilemma that hogged the opposition while accepting the GNU and the COPAC constitution saying ‘it’s better than a no deal.’  Whereas it was only years to come that they realised that the ‘better’ deal was actually nothing on the surface.  

Equally, events of the past days were largely triggered by Mugabe’s firing of his vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, the newly anointed ‘crown prince’ of the securocrats.  The eventual dismissal of Mnangagwa from government came after verbal attacks directed to his person and the military. The ‘coup’ was long brewing, it was just a matter of day and time, but Grace Mugabe became its trigger. The purges of senior leaders of ZANU PF aligned to Mnangagwa prompted the military chiefs to step in and stop Mugabe because they also felt threatened.  They realised that the axe was also going to fall on their necks if the succession events in the ruling party had continued on the same trajectory; hence, they had to pre-emptively strike. The generals have achieved their mission, they wanted the purges to stop, they did. They wanted to stop the dynasty project. They did. They wanted to take power from the G40, they did. They wanted Mnangagwa to be at congress, he will be.
The conspirators? Emmerson Mnangagwa and Gen Chiwenga

Historically, the major political contradictions in Zimbabwe have always been resolved by the gun. Here I refer to five historical events that were resolved by the gun.  Firstly, it was the First Chimurenga (War of liberation) in 1896, which was a contest between the colonisers versus the people of Zimbabwe, a war which we eventually lost resulting in the colonisation of Zimbabwe. Secondly, the second Chimurenga which was Smith’s UDI versus that ZANLA/ZIPRA affair. Thirdly, it was post-independence, in the 1980s and that featured Joshua Nkomo versus Mugabe, which resulted in the massacring of more than 20 000 people in Matabeleland during Gukurahundi. Fourthly, the MDC versus ZANU PF in 2008, when the military factor became a crucial element in resolving the political contradictions, thereby keeping President Mugabe in power. The last of such events is the succession question we are currently witnessing in ZANU PF which is now being solved by the gun. George Charamba, Mugabe’s spokesperson for 17 years told Financial Times that Mr Mugabe’s fate would be decided by those wielding power and not by the will of the people. “What we see in the streets is just atmospherics,” he said. More importantly, what we are currently witnessing is problem solving of the ZANU PF succession, now being handled, executed and directed by the gun after Mugabe had suppressed that debate and by default making himself life president of Zimbabwe.

However, as many Zimbabweans in and outside the country were celebrating Mugabe’s ‘demise’ which has been instigated by the gun, they should think about the future. From a fair analysis without attaching any emotions the coup is a ‘family (ZANU) affair’ and General Chiwenga was unequivocal in his 13th of November 2017 statement that it’s a military resolution of internal party contradictions. As a result it has nothing to do with the generality of the populace, not even democracy rather a self-correction of ZANU PF as it solves its succession. It has always been a power tussle that dates back from Zimbabwe’s war of liberation between the nationalists (political leadership) and the military leadership who were playing different roles in the war. Mugabe, a civilian (who has no military background) was supported by the military in his ascendancy to the throne in 1977.  Forty years down the line, the military is featuring again to remove Mugabe and replacing him with another trained soldier Emmerson Mnangagwa.  Secondly, the military chiefs are now an economic class with its own distinct interests and this is a 'military class project' to keep hands over the party-state apparatus no matter which angle you look at it. The alleged involvement of the army elites in the Chiadzwa diamonds are a case in point. Thirdly, the coup has exposed that Zimbabwe’s opposition has paid heavily for being directionless and unable to build a cohesive social and political project. The failure of the opposition even to reform or renew itself will be their greatest downfall if ever they are going to gain space in the wake of a rejuvenated ZANU PF.

Going forward, Zimbabwe should retain to civilian order and allow the constitution to be respected. They must be a clear framework, that at least should try to involve the people or rather any transitional mechanisms should lead to reforms and ultimately a democratic election. The people of Zimbabwe should be given a chance to choose a government of their choice, but Alas! the events in the past few days indicate that we will always be asked to participate in civic affairs with the nozzle of the gun on our head in the immediate and foreseeable future. Therefore, it is critical to create conditions for a free and fair election so that we will have a government that is elected by the people. Free and fair elections are the only way to have a legitimate government and retain to civilian rule. The question again is, will the new dispensation create those conditions for a free and fair elections? If yes, will the military accept a ZANU PF electoral defeat given their strong vested interests in the ruling party and role in aiding ZANU PF to remain in power even despite losing in 2008? For the pro-democratic forces, the question is how do they build progressive political platforms that can be seen as part of the National Democratic Revolution? How do progressive forces mobilise to deepen a structurally deep movement which makes the transformation national and not be subjugated and domineered by the factions in the national liberation movement? They should continue mobilising on the ground and be relevant in the struggles ahead. However, given the fragmentation in the opposition and lack of cogent policies to address the socio-politico-economic crisis ZANU PF has somehow managed to solve its complex succession question. This means after they are finished with addressing the self-cannibalising that was threatening to tear them apart, that machinery will be re-directed at the opposition and civil society with much viciousness.

President Mugabe’s speech read on the 20th of November 2017, whilst flanked by all the security forces was a tell-tale sign and this was confirmed by Patrick Chinamasa’s utterances after the Central Committee meeting held on the same day that it was a ZANU PF affair and they did not need the opposition on the dinner table. In addition, the military apparatchiks released a statement on the 21st of November 2017, that ‘Operation Restore Legacy’ had been successful and it was time to go back to normal life. The question that begs to the military and ZANU PF is: what happened to the people’s revolution? Maybe it was never about the people but ZANU PF and its survival. The opposition, civil society and Zimbabweans in general need to avoid being easily excitable otherwise they will keep on being taken on a wild goose chase in Zimbabwe’s politics.

NB: Views expressed in this article are personal 

Blessing Vava is a research fellow at the University of the Witwatersrand, Africa-China reporting department. He can be contacted on blessingvava@gmail.com. Twitter: @blevava