Reuters reports: Inside State House in Harare, Robert Mugabe was in the tightest spot of his 37-year rule. Tanks were on the streets and troops had occupied the state broadcaster, from where the army had announced it had taken control of Zimbabwe.
Mugabe, 93 years old but still alert, remained defiant. The only leader the country had known since independence was refusing to quit.
At a tense meeting with his military top brass on Nov. 16, the world’s oldest head of state put his foot down: “Bring me the constitution and tell me what it says,” he ordered military chief Constantino Chiwenga, according to two sources present.
An aide brought a copy of the constitution, which lays out that the president is commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
Chiwenga, dressed in camouflage fatigues, hesitated before replying that Zimbabwe was facing a national crisis that demanded military intervention.
Mugabe retorted that the army was the problem, according to the sources present. Then the beleaguered president indicated that perhaps they could find a solution together.
The meeting marked the start of an extraordinary five-day standoff between Mugabe and Zimbabwe’s supreme law on one side, and the military, his party and Zimbabwe’s people on the other. [Continue reading…]
Emmerson Mnangagwa is 75, and for decades he was righthand man to Robert Mugabe, accused of the same human rights abuses and similar corruption.
He is widely known as “the Crocodile”, a liberation war nickname that may have stuck because it suited his reputation for ruthless cunning.
Born in east Zimbabwe, where relatives remember an “active and confident” boy, he spent 10 years in jail during the struggle, gaining O-levels and A-levels and eventually a law degree, then returned to fighting in the bush.
After independence he was a stalwart of the Zanu-PF party, which he now leads, and was one of Mugabe’s closest aides, cycling through roles including spymaster and security chief, and administering the well-stocked party coffers before being made vice-president.
He fell out of favour, and was ousted along with supporters from his “lacoste” faction, when his own presidential ambitions crossed those of Mugabe’s wife, Grace – but the split was very recent.
“Mnangagwa isn’t exactly a fresh face. He’s been with Mugabe since 1976. He was the chief hatchet man for Mugabe on and off for 40 years. That’s a fact that hasn’t suddenly become irrelevant,” said the historian Stuart Doran. [Continue reading…]
Wilf Mbanga writes: Should Zimbabweans be rejoicing today? Robert Mugabe, 93, has ruled them with an iron fist since 1980. He is the only president an entire generation aged under 40 have ever known. Admittedly, the fist was not so iron in the early years – but to millions of Zimbabweans it has become increasingly oppressive since the mid-1990s.
Thousands of people from the Ndebele ethnic group were slaughtered in the Gukurahundi purge of the early 1980s, and in the intervening decades many thousands more have paid with their lives. Women and children dying in childbirth at a faster rate than anywhere else in Africa; opposition activists beaten and tortured to death; journalists kidnapped and never seen again: it is a long and bloody list.
So surely Zimbabweans should be rejoicing at the news that Mugabe is now under house arrest, reported to have done a deal with the military in which he will resign in exchange for safe passage out of the country for himself, his wife, Grace, and his family.
But there is no dancing in the streets. The millions of Zimbabweans in self-imposed exile (estimated at 25% of the population) are glued to their screens, swinging between hope and despair at every tweet, every morsel of news, every rumour. Those back home, who have borne the brunt of Mugabe’s jackboot for the past decades, are huddled in their houses, hoping their phone batteries won’t die before the erratic power supply is restored. A desperate few ventured out to stand yet again in the endless bank queues, to draw their daily allowance, worth under 20 US dollars.
Tyler Durden writes: While the developed world is focusing on the rapidly deteriorating developments in the Crimean, China, which has kept a very low profile on the Ukraine situation aside from the token diplomatic statement, is taking advantage of this latest distraction to do what it does best: quietly take over the global periphery while nobody is looking.
Over two years ago we reported that none other than Zimbabwe – best known in recent history for banknotes with many zeros in them – was bashing the US currency, and had alligned itself with the Chinese Yuan. This culminated last month with the announcement by Zimbabwe’s central bank that it would accept the Chinese yuan and three other Asian currencies as legal tender as economic relations have improved in recent years. “Trade and investment ties between Zimbabwe, China, India, Japan and Australia have grown appreciably,” said Charity Dhliwayo, acting governor of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.
Exporters and the public can now open accounts in yuans, Australian dollars, Indian rupees and Japanese yen, Dhliwayo said. Zimbabwe abandoned its worthless currency in 2009.
It accepts the US dollar and the South African rand as the main legal tender. Their use has helped to stabilise the economy after world-record inflation threw it into a tailspin.
Independent economist Chris Mugaga said the introduction of the Asian currencies would not make a huge difference to Zimbabwe’s struggling economy.
“It is Zimbabwe’s Look East Policy, which has forced this, and nothing else,” he said.
And now, as a result of the “Look East Policy”, we learn that China has just achieved what every ascendent superpower in preparation for “gunboat diplomacy” mode needs: a key strategic airforce base. [Continue reading…]
Robert I. Rotberg writes:
President Robert Gabriel Mugabe is Zimbabwe’s curse. In his three decades in power, Mugabe has traded the country’s economic promise for withering decline. He’s turned what was once the breadbasket of the region into a deathtrap for its own citizens. He has crushed the opposition, cleared slums with bulldozers, ignored a devastating cholera outbreak, and chased millions of desperate migrants over the border into South Africa. His passing, when it comes, may seem like a blessing.
Yet when the ailing, 86-year-old Mugabe inevitably leaves office, by fair means or foul, more trouble is in store for the nation that he has singlehandedly destroyed. And hardly anyone is fully prepared for that game-changing moment — not Zimbabwe’s opposition; not neighboring South Africa; not Western embassies or regional multilateral organizations. No one has a workable contingency plan. And with everyone likely to be caught flat-footed by Mugabe’s demise, the president’s cronies are likely to attempt to seize power and install a regime as bad as or worse than the one left behind.
For now, Mugabe is keeping a tight grip on the Zimbabwean state. After losing a presidential election in 2008, he agreed — under heavy international pressure — to share power with the vote winner, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, and the two adversaries were forced into an unhappy marriage in 2009. Although Tsvangirai was made the prime minister, Mugabe continues to run the country according to his own whims. Defying the 2009 agreement, he appoints provincial governors, judges, ambassadors, an attorney general, a central bank governor, and military generals without so much as a nod in Tsvangirai’s direction. In fact, he ignores Tsvangirai most of the time, and blames the prime minister for Zimbabwe’s ongoing economic and social failings.