Columns 22.11.2017 06:50 am

Method in Bob’s madness

Former 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

Former 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

‘Anyone but Bob’ is not a sound succession policy. Zimbabweans are mistaken if they assume that whoever takes over from the despot will automatically foster democracy.

Robert Mugabe’s Sunday night televised address was not senseless rambling. It was strategically astute.

Although there were gaps, he did not mumble. Enunciation was clear, ambiguity minimal, yet enough to engender doubt he sought to convey.

This is not to exonerate Mugabe. His decades of misrule have been bad for Zimbabwe and for the region.

His time is up. Whatever good he might have done is outweighed by the bullying, murder and plunder he oversaw.

Read more: Lessons for Jacob Zuma in Robert Mugabe’s misfortunes

But he is no fool. On Sunday he was not confused, even when part of his speech was removed by a soldier sitting behind him during the broadcast.

Nor was he giving critics the middle finger.

Here’s the thinking. Since armoured vehicles rolled in, the main players have been trying to pretend this is not a coup d’état.

This is to avoid falling foul of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU), among others.

Even Zimbabwe’s long-standing benefactor China, would frown upon a coup.

If Mugabe had been ousted on Sunday, this would have been classified as a coup, defined as, “a sudden decisive exercise of force in politics; especially the violent overthrow or alteration of an existing government by a small group”.

By allowing mass demonstrations, the military sought to legitimise their actions and to overcome the perception that they represent a small group.

Further legitimacy will be perceived if the move to impeach Mugabe proceeds in a legally correct manner.

So on Sunday, Mugabe’s deeper motive might not have been to cling to power, or to secure a soft landing for his graceless spouse.

Rather he was trying to keep everything within the rules of SADC, the AU, Zanu-PF, and the Zimbabwe constitution.

You don’t have to be a Mugabe fan to admit grudging admiration for his eloquence and intellectual gifts. Neither Zanu-PF president-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa nor army chief Constantino Chiwenga is as sharp, yet they will match Mugabe in ruthlessness.

“Anyone but Bob” is not a sound succession policy. Zimbabweans are mistaken if they assume that whoever takes over from the despot will automatically foster democracy.

Far from being the dawn of a new democracy, this is a tussle between two Zanu-PF factions. When Mugabe fired Mnangagwa and then Chiwenga, he threatened the incomes of looters in Zanu-PF and the military.

Mnangagwa’s “Lacoste” group pushed back against Grace Mugabe’s “G40” gang, whom they despise for lack of Chimurenga bush-war struggle credentials.

This is a brawl among pigs at a feeding trough. Parallels to South Africa are overdone. Compared with Zimbabwean military, our SA National Defence Force is enfeebled.

This is epitomised by the joke that Sad Sack Brian Molefe is a colonel.

Just keep this Gupta servant away from army tenders. Unlike Zimbabweans, we don’t need permission from soldiers when we want to protest.

And cunning not-my-president Jacob Zuma is not as smart or articulate as Mugabe.

It’s easy to see why Mugabe has run rings around our leaders.

Behold a master class.

Martin Williams.

Martin Williams.

Is Zimbabwe’s ‘coup’ a good or bad one?

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