By Dr Masimba Mavaza| In the 1960s Africa tasted the first juices of independence and many states gained freedom. This was followed by military coups to change demi-gods created by the military and bootlickers. The 2000s saw a comparative reduction but the military still routinely usurped political power through the barrel of the gun. Nigeria topped the list of African countries using the gun on changing leaders like trousers.
Later on with the coming of independence in Zimbabwe, a military take over was never dreamt of, mainly because Zimbabwe gained independence through the pen – Lancaster. The gun led to the rule of the pen. The militant political parties did not blaze guns to the state house, but used the ink to the throne. After all we were all told the gun was paving way for a one man one vote policy. ZANU PF fought for democracy and thus it became the master of democracy. On this background it became difficult to separate the gun from the pen. The ballot box is guarded by an armed man. So the gun protects the politics and the politics followed the gun or is it? As Zimbabwe perfected democracy, good governance and economic growth, the idea of coup became even far fetched. Was this a harbinger of great things to come in Zimbabwe’s governance as the country’s breed of leaders work towards a unified country with the focus on economic growth?
“Although not an entirely settled issue, studies have demonstrated that democracies that rank very highly in their legitimacy rating have better prospects of avoiding military interventions.”
In Zimbabwe ZANU PF transformed itself in two years to become an undemocratic and undiplomatic entity. The Then first lady assisted greatly in destroying the party. The state of the party indeed affected the state of the nation. The ministers were forced to attend rallies at the expense of government business. The economy went its own way and the country its on way Chancers took over the party and the corrupt ones bribed their way through to the top. Government business was being run from the bedroom. Corrupt leaders were being cleared at a rally. Government business was being controlled by a few. Ministers were being fired on partisan basis. Security of the state was being controlled by friends and business ground to a halt. This called for intervention. It was clear that ZANU PF constitution was being ignored. This led to the trampling of the country’s constitution. Zimbabwe was now at the brink and it needed total evacuation and re establishment.
To restore legacy it was important to bring together all stake holders. The party was like a runaway train. As far as ZANU-PF is concerned, the state and all its branches, including the military, are extensions of the party and must be led by individuals with ZANU-PF principles.
It is important to understand that – although there is potential for national emancipation – this intervention had nothing to do with a national constitutional crisis but it was to restore the legacy of the nation. It has everything to do with one Grace Mugabe daring to ascend into the leadership of ZANU-PF without respect of those who have liberation credentials. And worse, to do so with the support of other individuals who never fought for liberation, such as former information minister Jonathan Moyo and Kasukuwere. The country was now reduced to a laughing stock. Comrade Mugabe’s wife, made it easy for the army to intervene by insulting and engineering the expulsion of former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, The disrespect which was exhibited by the first lady propped up Mnangagwa’s profile at the same time making her a joke. She did not see this coming and indeed power blinded her heavily. She made a fatal error when she dared the army to come and shoot her. It is also worth remembering that these same generals have propped up Comrade Mugabe over the years and were prepared to see him through the general elections next year and until he either died in office or he voluntarily gave up power. They were prepared to endure Mrs Mugabe’s insults as long as she was out of the power structure until the unthinkable happened , clearly out of touch with his own party power centres and surrounded by criminals comrade Mugabe, fired Comrade Mnangagwa, paving the way for his wife to take over as vice-president for both the party and the state. This was unacceptable. The move was engineered by the criminals surrounding the president and this needed the army to target them. There was a rot in the police force so a military touch was needed.
So the operation which followed was to restore legacy of both the party and that of the country.
The army could not in any way engage in a coup so there was no coup in Zimbabwe. It was only a project targeting criminals around the president and milking our economy dry.
The army was aware that a coup is now out fashioned and will not be accepted. They were aware that the speed with which regional and continental bodies swiftly condemn and suspend from membership countries with coups has sent notice that such power grabs are no longer tolerated and that membership goes with certain standards and principles and coups are not one of them. In the Africa of old, military dictators hung on to power for as long as they wished and received no censure from fellow leaders. But now groupings like SADC, ECOWAS and the African Union are loudly opposed to unconstitutional changes of government and those involved now know that they will be banned from the table of nations. At a time when countries are increasing cooperation through intergovernmental bodies, the effects of isolation are quickly felt.
As a result the army did not change the government. The ruling party is still ruling. The president resigned and this was lawful. No blood was shed or was it not. The AU’s adherence to the principle of non-interference led to a swift execution of the operation restore legacy in Zimbabwe. In practice, however, the AU usually accepted whichever government was in effective control of the territory and allowed that government to represent its state within the AU. In the case of Zimbabwe no government was changed. Only the criminals surrounding the head of state were targeted. The head of state resigned and the constitutions were applied. That is the party and national constitutions were applied. In contrast, the African Union in its Constitutive Act outlines broad principles on the promotion of democracy and good governance and outlaws unconstitutional changes of government, as does the African Charter on Democracy, Elections, and Governance.
In all purposes the Zimbabwean situation was constitutional. Thousands of people marched in the streets of Harare cutting across all political,social and racial divides.
Zimbabweans showed that democracy is the only game in town. As such, any other means of ascending to power other than through elections is frowned upon and coup leaders risk isolation. In previous years when coups were in fashion, the military had no qualms about their actions. But today, it is worth noting that the first thing most coup leaders do upon seizing power is to call themselves a “transitional government/authority” and quickly promise a return to civilian rule within a short time. That in itself implies that the military are attuned to what the reputable mode of governance should be. In Zimbabwe’s situation the power never shifted. It remained in the hands of the civilians.
The constitution was respected and followed to the ink. The emergence of a growing culture of the rule of law, constitutionalism and the democratic dispensation has largely taken away the appetite for coups. The peace Zimbabwe enjoyed can not be thrown away by negligent talk.
Also, seven months is not a long time in the life of a nation. Within this period there will be elections, which will be free and fare. So those that want power can challenge for it through the ballot.”It should be noted that public support for the military intervention was huge and unprecedented. This was applauded by the masses as it was seen as the only means of removing sit-tight and emerging first lady with her cabal who had shut all avenues for citizen participation in national affairs. But instead of cheering coup plotters like in the past, the people are now involved in campaigning for political parties and candidates of their choice to win power through elections. Comrade Mnangagwa by agreeing on democracy and elections next year means the governance question is largely settled. Therefore, the focus has shifted to addressing poverty, economic development and growth.
What’s more, with the country being dubbed the fastest growing, it is Zimbabwe’s time” and It is preaching the “democratic dividend” – the benefits, such as increased investment and economic prosperity, that accrue to places with stable, democratic and credible government.With several countries reaping the “democratic dividend”, those that want to disrupt their country’s growth trajectory through coups and acts of bad governance will not only find themselves out of fashion but also risk a revolt from their own people, who are witnessing what political stability and respect for the rule of law have achieved elsewhere on the continent and would similarly want to benefit from them. As the country hopefully says goodbye to military intervention it is hoped that the over-staying leaders syndrome including those who saved us from the vampires will be the last of such pseudo- democrats to grace Our post-independence political landscape, as a new era of Our political governance clearly beckons. – [email protected]