Celebrating the coup against Mugabe sets a very bad example

Robert Mugabe no longer symbolised Zanu-PF's future, says the writer /Reuters
Robert Mugabe no longer symbolised Zanu-PF's future, says the writer /Reuters

There is a thick cloud of euphoria over Zimbabwe today. Masses are rejoicing both within and without the country at the departure of the liberator turned oppressor Robert Mugabe.

It is a moment to savour and enjoy. But as the winds of change blow, they will push the clouds of euphoria along and expose the sun of reality that will shine on and scorch Zimbabwe and its people.

This is a significant moment indeed. But to call it a triumph of democracy and the will of the people is taking it a little too far.

For all intents and purposes, Mugabe was the victim of a bloodless coup. He fell prey to conspirators within his own party and in the ranks of the very army that has propped up his long 37 years in power.

The truth is Mugabe no longer symbolised Zanu-PF's prosperous future.

Fellow party leaders are offended by his senility. Mugabe's age and frailty saw him outsource his thinking to his young wife and she just was not having the same effect.

Zanu-PF leadership sensed that Mugabe's spell - that had once bewitched both people and the military - had lost its power and the party was losing grip.

A bloodless coup was the only option this time.

Army chiefs together with their co-conspirators read the international mood and realised that they could no longer afford to employ the currency of violence.

The process of realigning the balance of forces started some years back. Mugabe, being the astute strategist that he is would often read the signs of rebellion and respond. Sensing a conspiracy in 2014 Mugabe sacked Joice Mujuru.

Perceiving an imminent internal revolt being orchestrated by Mujuru's successor, Mugabe fired Emmerson Mnangagwa in early November 2017.

It was a little too late. Mnangagwa had already hashed the plan and cut a deal with the army chiefs.

So far gone was the plot that the conspirators made provision for Mugabe's resistance. His once loyal party troopers were lined up in parliament to vote for his impeachment when he defied Mnangagwa's Zanu-PF's instruction to resign.

Yes. It's no longer Mugabe's Zanu-PF but Mnangagwa's. And what Zimbabweans and the world should consider is that he may be a harder task master than Mugabe.

The Bible gives an account of how the people of Israel had hoped to get relief at the death of Solomon and installation of his son Rehoboam. They told Rehoboam how they suffered under Solomon.

Instead of sympathising, he increased their suffering until they revolted.

At this point the people of Zimbabwe are celebrating a change of government they had no part in bringing about.

And they are hoping that Mnangagwa's government will be more benevolent than Mugabe's.

So far, Mnangagwa and his military associates are making the right noises. The proof of the pudding will be in the tasting.

That said, we cannot fail to address the hypocrisy of liberals who - when it suits them - can celebrate the manipulation of democratic institutions by unscrupulous people but, when it doesn't suit them, decry the same actions by others.

When it was Mugabe who was manipulating democratic processes the liberals were up in arms.

They imposed sanctions and threw mud on him. When the same actions are being employed to neutralise Mugabe, they rejoice. This is disingenuous.

True lovers of democracy cannot celebrate a bloodless coup. They can only celebrate the momentary relief that this moment may provide and the space the people now have to reclaim their agency from the repression of elites.

Now is the time for the people of Zimbabwe, not only to reject Mugabe, but also to reject the system of military interference that propped him up.

The battle may be won but the war continues.