Columns 18.11.2017 06:27 am

Crocodile in murky water

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe may be reviled in the West as a tyrant who wrecked his country, but he retains clout in southern Africa for his role in the continent's last major struggle against colonial rule

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe may be reviled in the West as a tyrant who wrecked his country, but he retains clout in southern Africa for his role in the continent's last major struggle against colonial rule

It is clear that opposition politicians are champing at the bit to participate in the restructuring.

Coup d’etat? Or an anticrime campaign?

An illegal act of regime change or merely a temporary and pre-emptive military intervention within the parameters of the constitution?

The rhetoric used in the media to describe the present impasse in Zimbabwe says more about the partisan sympathies of the observer than they say about the reality.

The one thing that is certain, however, is whatever the terms used, what is happening has nothing to do with democracy. The empty streets of Harare tell the true story.

There are no jubilant crowds celebrating the exit of His Excellency, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe. The lack of reaction does not stem from love for the man.

He is despised by most Zimbabweans – and even those who retain respect for the role that he played in the liberation of the country, concede that the 93-year-old leader, teetering at the edge of senility, is well past his sell-by date.

It is similarly telling that there are no angry crowds taking to the streets in support of the House of Mugabe. As the last stridently pro-Mugabe group, the war veterans admitted when they turned against the president last year: “there’s nothing to bribe us with any more.

The economy is finished.” There is even less enthusiasm for the president’s anointed heir, his 53-year-old wife.

Widely derided as “Gucci Grace” for her spending splurges, her support within Zanu-PF appears to have evaporated.

Zimbabweans are muted in their reaction to the dramatic events of the past week because they see the ousting of the Mugabes and the imminent return of fired vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa to the political stage for what it is: the transfer of power from the Mugabe faction of Zanu-PF, which has been running Zimbabwe into the ground for 37 years, to a different predatory faction – Mnangagwa. Mnangagwa’s gang – known as the Lacoste group, after the brand’s crocodile emblem, which chimes with Mnangagwa’s nickname, “The Crocodile” – will likely be amenable to the changes necessary to resuscitate Zimbabwe’s economy.

For this reason, the Lacostes are preferred by the international players, including in the Southern African Development Community and the African Union, to Grace’s Generation 40 faction.

But Mnangagwa, who it was generally assumed would be Mugabe’s successor until Mugabe pandered to the pressures of his ambitious wife to fire him, is no democrat.

He shares with Bob a bloody history of murder, plunder and the infliction of terror upon ordinary people.

Although AU-armed intervention in support of Mugabe is not going to happen, it would speed up the transition between the Zanu-PF factions to make it more palatable in legal terms. Zimbabwean opposition politicians should remember that they have been there before.

There is a direct line between today’s “soft coup” and the 2008 betrayal of democracy which resulted from the “quiet diplomacy” of South Africa’s former president, Thabo Mbeki.

It is clear that opposition politicians are champing at the bit to participate in the restructuring.

But be careful about following a crocodile into murky water.

William Saunderson-Meyer

William Saunderson-Meyer.

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