27th November 2017
There is a question that should be on everyone’s lips today. If all it takes is an impeachment process to finally get rid of Robert Mugabe, why did we need a “non-coup” coup? This “non-coup” coup has taken the country into the most perilous position, inches away from becoming sanctioned by SADC, the AU and the rest of the world. As we go forward into whatever new (and most likely old) political arrangement, the army and ZANU-PF must explain to the nation the justification for violating the constitution when there was a ready-made constitutional mechanism already at hand.
This is not trivial. While everyone tip-toes around using the word coup, it is obvious that all governments, regional, continental and international, are completely aware that it is a coup, but no-one, for obvious reasons, want to say this officially. If they do, then a rapid chain of events must happen. Diplomatic relations must be cut, and a whole range of actions, perhaps even including military action, have to come into play. So everyone plays it down, watches, and waits in hope that an internal solution emerges that does not look like the end point of a coup. But every move so far seems to demonstrate this.
And so the big question remains, as does a subsidiary question.
If Emmerson Mnangagwa was so popular in the party, as seems evident today – 10 Provinces and the Central Committee wanted him – why the indirect route of a coup, and not the completely constitutional route of voting Robert Mugabe out at the Congress in December. It seems to be a pattern repeating itself: it suggests that ZANU-PF cannot reform, cannot place constitutionalism above means-end opportunism, and is never willing to test popularity through open contests.
It also looks suspiciously like Emmerson Mnangagwa could not have won an internal popularity test within ZANU-PF, and needed the “non-coup” coup to achieve this. There is something very uncomfortable about winning an internal election via the power of the state military. This is not a great model for democracy no matter how deep the political crisis in the country.
This bodes ill for the future. Mugabe has gone and this is clearly cause for celebration, but we must all wonder whether “Mugabism” has gone, and whether the “new” ZANU-PF will show itself capable of reform into a truly modern political party.
The coming weeks will reveal how much change is likely to come, and, with the near-certain creation of a ZANU-PF headed government of national unity, how much reform will take place. We have been here before. A ZANU-PF dominated GNU in 2009 provided no meaningful reforms, and controlled the constitutional process to the gates of the election in 2013: this prevented any possible challenge to its hegemony through the constitution during the life of the GNU.
Now that the citizens have found their voice, and their feet, it will be their task more than ever to ensure that any new political configuration adheres rigidly to both the constitution and constitutionalism, undertakes the reforms necessary to undo state capture and securocracy, and takes a truly developmental approach to improving the lives of the citizens.
And so, it is important always to begin a new relationship based on the truth, no matter how uncomfortable the truth is. Building a relationship on lies, no matter how expedient or necessary they may be, inevitably leads to tears, divorce, and, in politics, to yet another “non-coup” coup. We watch with critical interest.