Will 2014 usher in an Egypt-style revolution in Zim? Part 1

via Will 2014 usher in an Egypt-style revolution in Zim? Part 1  By Dr Clifford Chitupa Mashiri, 1st January 2014.

Amid reports of Zimbabweans predicting a bleak future due to worsening economic challenges following what others see as rigged July 31 elections and a serious failure of leadership, questions are being asked about what kind of change 2014 will bring. This 3- Part instalment joins the debate on the prospects of an Egypt-style revolution in Zimbabwe. There has indeed been a raging debate on the subject.

‘An Egypt-style revolution is possible’ – Makumbe

Before his death, former University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer Professor John Makumbe told SWRadio Africa in February 2011 that repressive legislation and the pro-Mugabe security forces would make protests very difficult in Zimbabwe. “An Egypt-style revolution is possible in Zimbabwe but it might be unwise,” he said. “We could see a similar bloodbath that we are witnessing in Libya right now.”

But Professor Makumbe emphasised that “there is a price for freedom,” and dismissed comments that Zimbabweans are too afraid to take their frustrations onto the streets. “That is an underestimation of the anger people are feeling, the people-power that Zimbabweans have. Once this starts in Zimbabwe it will be unstoppable,” Makumbe said (Alex Bell, ‘Zims urged to follow Egypt, Tunisia and Libya’s lead,’ SW Radio Africa, 22 February 2011).

‘An Egyptian style revolution is not possible’ – Mitchell

On the other hand, a senior Zimbabwean historian, Diana Mitchell who reportedly foretold the downfall of the former Ian Smith regime in 1977 spoke against thoughts then in the wait for an uprising that was being engineered on social networking website Facebook in August 2013. According to Zimeye, Mitchell signalled that an Egyptian style revolution is not possible in Zimbabwe. In her view, Zimbabweans will “cling to peace as a preferred option. The flames of the Arab Spring’s violent revolutions are not an attractive model for change right now,” Mitchell said (See Zimeye, ‘Top Historian Diana Mitchell Dismisses Baba Jukwa Uprising’, 18/08/13).

But any assessment of a revolution should recognise the political dynamics of the specific situation at any given time. In order to understand the significance of the prevailing Zimbabwean dynamics, it makes sense to briefly review the literature on the Arab Spring in order to draw some inferences and/or comparisons.

A revolution is not a dinner party

Of course a revolution is neither a walk in the park nor a dinner party. As Mao Tse Tung of China once said:

“A revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another” (Googlereads).

Four lines of analysis

Florence Gaub in Understanding Instability: Lessons from the Arab Spring (2012) asserts that an assessment of a country’s vulnerability to risk and conflict requires four lines of analysis: conditions, catalysts, triggers on the side of society, as well as the state’s capacity to handle these on the other side. Conditions or the underlying root causes for instability could include the evolution of the state, historical experiences, politicisation of regional, ethnic or religious identities, distribution of wealth and income, unemployment rates and so on. Root causes themselves do not cause instability by merely existing.

Echoing the same sentiments, Rajeev Agrawal a Research fellow at the Institute for Defence Studies and Analysis (IDSA) in New Delhi, India says: “Revolutions don’t happen overnight.” They require definite preconditions and sufficient and largely spread discontent to trigger them. “Also often it is the last straw for the oppressed masses with their backs to the wall and ‘nothing to lose’ attitude,” Agrawal writes in the IDSA Issue Brief for October 26, 2012.

Gaub emphasises that catalysts of instability become the decisive factor in the determination of actual conflict potential. But still that requires a ‘trigger’, a one time event capable of animating the actual social dislocation such as elections, natural disasters, economic shock, death of a leader or an activist and so on.

The state’s capacity to handle conditions of instability is best understood by examining William Quandt’s four ingredients of authoritarian regimes: ‘ideology, repression, payoffs and elite solidarity’. [Arguably these four exist in full in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe]. In Tunisia and Egypt, according to Toby Dodge of the London School of Economics the ideological justifications for rule had long since failed to have any purchase on the population [Cf. Zanu-PF’s jingles about Chimurenga].

In affirmation, Lieutenant Colonel El Hassane Aissa of the Morrocan Army astutely argues that after more than five decades of independence from European colonialism, autocratic rulers have failed to meet the legitimate aspirations of the Arab people. These, he says, include political freedom, economic prosperity and human dignity. [While Zimbabwe is a multi party state, political freedom is not guaranteed in the wake of Gukurahundi and other human rights abuses].

Aissa contends that the economic situation [in the Arab Spring] was worsened by almost three decades of unsuccessful economic models of the IMF and the World Bank. [Cf. Zimbabwe’s ESAP, Zimpest and now Zim Asset].He also points out that centres of power were held by ruling dynasties or families, the military, nationalist secular parties or influential tribes led to political disaffection as a motive for rioting [Cf. Mugabe’s Gushungo dynasty and its grip on power including seized farms, JOC’s diamond mines, tribal chiefs and other party cronies]. Regime corruption in both Egypt and Tunisia thrived by excluding the majority of the population from the economy [Cf. Afrobarometer rated Zimbabwe the third most corrupt country in Africa at 81 percent, behind joint leaders Nigeria and Egypt at 82 percent, VOA, 13/11/13].

The ruling elites in both countries allegedly flaunted their wealth in the streets of Tunis and Cairo’s families as the majority struggled to keep head above water. [Cf. Mugabe chided his cousin Philip Chiyangwa for showing off, New Zimbabwe 19/09/13. Furthermore, Zimbabwe’s annual output of 30 000 university and tertiary graduates without guaranteed jobs].

[The educational environment in the Arab world was ripe for the emergence of such upheavals [Cf: Zimbabwe has the highest rate of literacy in Africa]. Dodge notes that the “constituency for revolutionary change” [in the Arab Spring] steadily expanded as the population between 15 and 29 years-old rose, by 50 percent in Tunisia and 60 percent in Egypt since 1990.[Cf. According to the 2012 census Zimbabwe’s youths aged 15-24 years old form 60% of the population].

The drivers of the revolution

Apart from the demographics dimension of the upheavals of the Arab Spring other drivers were mobilised masses, enabled and assisted by technology – the social media – a powerful tool indeed and the role played by the military as well as the intervention by outside forces. [According to the Sunday Mail of 21/07/12, Zimbabwe’s internet traffic conducted through mobile phone devices “is the highest in the world at 58.1 percent.”]

Consequences of a revolution

Any revolution will naturally have consequences or a series of reactions. The Arab Spring inevitably triggered state, regional and international reactions – some reactive others proactive. Similarly, it would be naive to assume red carpet treatment for staging a mass uprising in Zimbabwe. Just for being suspected of plotting an Egypt style revolution, Munyaradzi Gwisai and others were slapped with a two year suspended sentence in March 2012.

Possible implications of a Zimbabwean Spring

It will be an exceptional opportunity for political change towards democracy. As in the Arab Spring, the removal of a dictator will be the first step in the right direction. A major implication will be how the regional power house South Africa will react to a Jasmine revolution next door. Equally interesting would be how the U.S., UK, Russia, and China would react in the event of a Zimbabwean Spring.

Clifford holds a PhD in International Relations. He is also an author, political analyst, former diplomat and a fulltime PhD Social Sciences candidate at London South Bank University focusing on forced migration. Zimanalysis2009@gmail.com. 


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    muvengwa munondivengerei 8 years ago

    Clifford should come back as a starting point.

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    Tjingababili 8 years ago


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    Nimrod Mupanesengende 8 years ago

    Wishful thinking. Why should these people urge other people’s children to start a revolt whilst they are safely hung in the comfort of their houses? Anyone who wants to start a revolt should just go into the street and do it, then, and only then will they realise how Zimbabwe’s revolution, its new economic order and its land reform and indigenization are defended. They talk of Egypt style revolt but do not tell the world how Egypt is today, after the so called revolt. Egypt is no longer that stable country which used to be the leader in the Middle East. The country is in tatters. Only fools who are desperate to bring back the old economic order will call for Egypt-style revolt, using other people’s children and not themselves or their own children. Here is what will happen if such a revolt were to start:- A wave, yes, a wave of heavily armed youths and revolutionaries will march to Borrowdale, Avondale, Mt Pleasant, Allexadra Park, Glen Lorn, Umwinsdale and all other affluent surburbs flushing out all children of imperialists from their houses. The perpetrators of chaos will be smoked from their fox-holes and killed and all exit holes will be blocked and every imperialist-resembling blood sucker will be slaughtered. The battles will not be fought in Highfield-no. Revolutionaries and heavily armed youths will come from Highfield, Mufakose, Mbare, Kambuzuma and other high density surbarbs and march to the hiding places of the children of imperialists to flush them out and kill them. Those who call for Egyptian style revolution should know what that means. The African will never surrender their found affluence, land, minerals and commerce. They will wipe out the remnant of colonisers to retain their newly found wealth. Make no mistake about it, Zimbabweans will protect their newly found way of life. Zimbabwe is not like many African countries where the African has nothing to protect. Mugabe gave Africans wealth, Assets and land to protect. Those who want Africans to fight on their behalf so that they can continue to steal Zimbabwe’s wealth will be disappointed. They will find that instead of fighting for the imperialists, Africans will fight the imperialists and their keith and kin to protect the African’s newly found wealth and dignified way of life.

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      Umwrong 8 years ago

      Lol you talk of genocide. If that ever happened, your government would be invaded and those youth mercilessly murdered.

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    Rukweza 8 years ago

    @certain ethnic group is enjoying the current set up,yet they are suffering as well

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    Kuakwa Katiyo 8 years ago

    Problem starts with zpf. First it was bad for them to chose a teacher to lead the party. Mugabe wrong person to lead the party and like all dictators hides inability with oppression. Africa also needs to move away from the notion of head of party being head of state/government. That arrangement stifles leadership change and gives two roles to people who are not even qualified for one of those roles alone. Obama can hardly be leader of the democrats and president of the USA. His plate is too full with the presidency job. Had mugabe seized to be leader of the party upon becoming prime minister in 1980 by 1990 somebody in zpf would have taken over. Besides gukurahundi could possibly had been avoided for a prime minister with a limited future in office would have thought twice about killing so many people for a short-lived office.

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    Khaya'bonina 8 years ago

    A one word from the following groups will unseat Mugabe , women’s league, both ZANLA and ZAPU PF war verterians , the youth’s league etc these groups must lead us to the better future of Zimbabwe , they must start now to discret ZANU PF government till the right time to host elections in 2018 , if Mugabe is 50 years old today , then i was going to support an uprising against him and his government ,but at his age people of Zimbabwe must not loose hope , we are at a dawn period and soon the sun will rise and pave a better future for us , i can foresee a better Zimbabwe without the leadership of Mugabe , people of Zimbabwe will reunite after his retirement or death .

    Let us be patient , an uprising is not an appropriate route for us , we had been suffering for the last 34 years under Mugabe’s rule , we can not just mess up things at the final stage , 2014 is a year for us to learn from the mistake that we did through voting for and assisting ZANU PF on their rigging , we need to get that mistake corrected by 2018.

    ZANU PF have got very evil people as i eye witnessed their Guguraundu actions endaweni yakithi eMandebeleni , do the uprising and they will never mind to despatch out soldiers to kill innocent people fighting for their rights as they have never respected the rights of the people ever since .

    We Zimbabweans , we will never be the Egyptians , sorry to say we are more educated , we have got better channels to recourse our unhappiness , and the major channel is through casting our votes for a democratic president , and this time arround we are on the right channel to unseat ZANU PF by 2018 .

    As a citzen of the country , i therefore call up all opposition party leaders to be more focused and work hard for utimate success towards 2018 elections , our economy once faced a ludicrous period and we had been very patient about it until we got bailed out by the inclusive government of MDC and ZANU PF , we might face that hardship period again , ZANU PF doesn’t give us hope to revive our economy , we might really face serious economically problems and we might loose our patience and be even emotinally about the situation of our country , but a huge mistake would be an uprising , the only way to bail out ourselves would be 2018 elections . Therefore these authors writing while enjoying life from overseas must stop ignating fire and encouraging an uprising which might even hurt innocent babies , Jesus , just think about your own young baby !!!!!!

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    Khaya’bonina how can you say we are on track to unseat the dictator in 2018. We all thought that in 2008 and even more so in 2013. Not one of us wants violence or an uprising and as a deep Christian I rely on prayer and trust God but for how long do you push a suffering people? People are like a piece of elastic; you can stretch it and stretch it and one day it breaks-it just snaps! That is what happened in Romania. The whole 2013 election process is as clear as mud and extremely compromised. In fact Zimbabwe is running on one gigantic lie and God does NOT build on anything except the truth. The economy could well be ZPF’s Waterloo this time round. I do not want or believe in a violent uprising but I do believe millions of Zimbabweans in and out of the country should come together in unity and DEMAND fresh free and fair elections run by a totally apolitical body and with a totally new voters roll. If ZPF could not even open up all election material for all interested parties to see there is clearly a lot to hide. I protest because I for one have had my name removed off the voters roll since 2000. There must be a clear and peaceful and sustained call to fresh elections. ZPF and our old Sekuru have NO RIGHT to be in government! Bottom Line!

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    mucha 8 years ago

    Try it and see. Look at Egypt, Libya, Syria, etc. Now ungovernable. People dying everyday more than when the so-called former dictators were in power. As for Zimbabwe, you are cowards I know and can’t attempt this and succeed. Beware.

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    Khaya'bonina 8 years ago

    @NBS , i am a family man who can forsee the danger of an uprising as you also unsupport it , now the appropriate , democratic, and peace juncture to unseat the ZANU PF is 2018 thats it , you can call all people to unity and go for fresh elections but that is not as easy as you think , MDC T dropped the court case against ZANU PF pertaining the rigging of the 31 july elections , now who do you think can pursue that with all facts and evidence ???? You are the man of God thats good keep on praying may be your prayers would bring miracles and a better change , but the really prayer that i desparately need from you is to pray for peace until 2018 that would be the appropriate and constitutonal time for us to choose who will take us forward , a man of God must not push for things to happen but must have hope and wait for God’s time . God might be testing you to see how patient you are , Men and women of God pray for a peaceful Zimbabwe , make a difference between you and us the politicians , don’t join us we are playing our dirt game .

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    Nimrod. My my you have exposed how you coverted someone else’s property and assets and just wanting and threatening innocent people. I believe the youths you talk about know who the people like you are because you flaunt your ill gotten wealth. They will take you and your thieving kith and kin out just as they did in Romania. Your expectation of what will happen is absolute folly

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      Nimrod Mupanesengende 8 years ago

      Joe, the British chickened out from attacking us. Believe me, I not only know what I am talking about. Do you know that more than 60% of the youth voted for Zanu Pf in the last election? Those are the people fools like you are trying to use to restore the old economic order, an economic order that would run counter to the interests of those youths who have been empowered under President Mugabe. In 2000, you day dreamers said Mugabe was going to fall. You said the same thing in 2002, 2005, 2008, 2011 and you continue to say so today. Remember your Tsvangirai saying if Mugabe lasted until July of 2007 he would congradulate him? You were so happy then and it came to nothing. Tsvangirai repeated the same thing and again it all came to pass. Egypt revolt? Dream on you fools.

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        Nimrod, you say that 60% of the youth voted for ZPF, but we’re told that nationwide the RG only allowed 15% of all youth under 30 years of age to register to vote. So using those two figures, it means that only 9% of all youth actually voted for ZPF. That means that 91% did not vote for ZPF and therefore may not support Mugabe and his thieves. It’s also interesting that the percentage who didn’t vote for Mugabe, is almost the same percentage as those who are unemployed. Coincidence?

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    Fallenz 8 years ago

    I’m wondering about Nimrod’s wonderful, new, prosperous “way of life”. One of two things there… either he’s not in Zim, or he’s part of the corruption within. Either way, all he wrote can be summed with one word… “hogwash!” No one can be so blind as to not see what Zim has become, and no one so stupid as to not see that Mugabe and ZANUPF are the cause.

    There was no battle for independence… it was a fight to imprison and gut the people to enrich Mugabe’s personal wealth. Zimbabwe was not a nation to be freed… It was nothing more than a prize to be won for ZANUPF bigwigs.

    Nimrod, where’s the diamond money? Who has all the missing aid funds? How did so few become so stinking wealthy so quickly? Who got all the finest farms and properties? You seem to think things are now so wonderful for the people… then why are so many of them hungry and desperate?

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    Nimrod and his cowards are earmarked for the snakepit at our new chikurubi. Sadly its all gonna end in bloody retribution. Hence my nickname you rubbish zanoids. We instill fear into the hearts of these half donkeys half baboons. Vermin