By Eddie Cross
When Mr. Mugabe fired Emmerson Mnangagwa as Vice President and then tried to arrest General Chiwenga on his return from an official trip to China, it was a step too far for that old fox and a grave error of judgement.
He got away with Gukurahundi and the near total destruction of ZAPU and its founder, Joshua Nkomo then he got away with the elimination of his rivals and competitors for 20 years until MDC pitched up. He got away with 17 years of mayhem on the farms, selective killings of opposition activists of all hues and the destructive swathe of Murambatsvina. He got away with rigging elections in his favour a dozen times.
He got away with the theft of an estimated US$80 billion in 37 years of dominant control of the country in all its aspects, US$2 thousand million a year, culminating in the straight theft of US$21 billion in diamonds from the alluvial deposits in Marange. That is equal to 8 times our national debt, half the total tax revenues of the country for the period.
He got away with the premature deaths of 3 million Zimbabweans as life expectancy crashed from over 60 years in 1980 to 35 years. He got away with the forced expulsion of 5 million Zimbabweans into the Diaspora to find refuge from political thuggery and economic collapse. He got away with the collapse of our currency which for over 100 years had been stronger than the mighty US dollar and the British pound. He got away with turning one of the most diversified economies in Africa and a major agricultural producer and exporter into an importer of everything and leaving his poorest and most vulnerable people, living under the constant threat of starvation and dependency on food hand outs by the international Community.
But he did not get away with the last mistake of his Presidency.
In an extraordinary sweep of events, the army took complete control of the Country in one night, arrested a number of people (we still have no idea of how many) and held him under house arrest until he agreed to resign “voluntarily” under threat of a swift dismissal process through a Parliament which two weeks before were singing his praises and vowing to support his bid for a final term in Office in 2018.
Even the army was totally surprised at the public response – millions poured onto the streets in celebration and protest. For a few hours Zimbabweans held the biggest street party in history in Africa. Gone were the feared police on every corner – confined to their homes and compounds, gone were the Israeli water cannons, riot police and dogs with tear gas and batons. Gone was the motorcade with 20 vehicles, armed soldiers and motor cycle outriders travelling at a 100 kilometers and hour through the streets of Harare with the President riding in a six tonne Mercedes Benz automobile tank. Gone was the Old Man who slept in public gatherings, even when he was the main attendee, gone was the claw like grip which held absolute power over everyone and used it without mercy when he thought it necessary. Gone was the last “Big Man” of post-colonial Africa.
I had mixed feelings through it all – Mr. Mugabe had made a significant contribution to the liberation of Africa from colonial rule and European dominance. He was a brilliant man and could be charming. He knew nothing of economics or business (even though he had a degree in the former) but at times a massive figure in Africa, like so many of his contemporaries – then to watch him being metaphorically dragged through the streets and humiliated – but it was his own fault.
Riding on the back of this slick, totally ruthless operation that had all the hallmarks of Emmerson Mnangagwa, was the man of the moment and his army. He arrived back in the country, having fled just two weeks before in ignominy across the border in the Eastern Highlands, to a rapturous welcome and his own motorcade filled with praise singers from the Airport. In another week he was sworn in as President of the Republic by the Chief Justice in front of a huge capacity crowd and several Heads of State.
To drive home the message that real change had come, he made several speeches in which he promised a clean, lean government and a new beginning for the country. He drove to work in his Ministerial Merc, stopped at the traffic lights and smiled when greeted. The international Community rushed to assure him that if he fulfilled his promise to return Zimbabwe to democracy and the rule of law, they would recognise his government and support its efforts to get the economy back on its feet after the most recent collapse which followed the 2013 end of the GNU and a resumption of Mugabe’s absolute rule. The thousands of now destitute white farmers and their hundreds of thousands of former workers and staff were promised compensation. Better late than never, even though many have died in poverty since their forced evictions from their homes.
A real sense of anticipation gripped the country, what would his first team in power look like – inclusive, new blood, younger people, some technocrats?
Well now we know – after all the celebrations and expectations, the new Cabinet is just a collection of the old, corrupt and incompetent people who created the present economic shambles in the first place – “strengthened” not by new faces with new ideas and competencies but by the Military who for over 30 years have held real power behind the scenes. The Junta is back – but now in the open for all to see. When Chiwenga told the country and the President in 2008 after Mr. Tsvangirai and the MDC had won the election, that he “would not allow a transfer of power”, we have lived in the shadow of a military Junta, controlled by the Chairman of the JOC who has been Mr. Mnangagwa for several decades. In effect that was our first military coup.
The honeymoon with Mnangagwa is over – he has made a major tactical error and both the Country, and the international Community are going to adopt a wait and see attitude, which is really what he does not need. He has been unable to throw off the mantle of Zanu PF and the military Junta in the form of the JOC. Can he carry them over the finish line just 8 months away in the form of an election?
What he has done is throw the opposition a life line. For me the even bigger question is, can we get our act together and pick up this rope and pull ourselves into our real future? We need to sort out our leadership, only Morgan Tsvangirai has the national support required to defeat Zanu PF, he needs support and help to do so, and he needs it NOW. People have got to get off the fences they are sitting on and help us finish what we started in the past fortnight.
He needs a team of competent people who can sell our policies and programs as being the way out of this mess and to take us into the future, he needs people of capacity and integrity. He needs money – lots of it because you cannot fund a national political campaign without resources. Finally, he need the International Community to stick to its guns and maintain the stance that their help and assistance will only be given to a Government that has clear cut democratic credentials.
Eddie Cross, Bulawayo, 2nd December 2017