Opinion: the Mugabe era is over, the old regime is not | Opinion | DW | 15.11.2017
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Zimbabwe

Opinion: the Mugabe era is over, the old regime is not

In Zimbabwe, the military should now work to ensure an orderly transition of power, writes DW's Claus Stäcker.

The military are still insisting that there has been no coup, probably because of concerns that public opinion could turn against them if Zimbabwean icon Robert Mugabe were to be treated too harshly. That's one explanation for the flurry of statements on Mugabe's condition. Formally, the 93-year old is still president. But what should one call a head of state who is under house arrest and no longer in control of the situation?  Powerless, disempowered. Now, he only has to negotiate a deal for his family and sign an agreement to resign.

The rest remains a matter of discussion for experts in constitutional law. After 37 years, the Mugabe era is over. And with it the real coup, the gradual enthronement of his 41 years younger wife, Grace, as his successor.

It's now all about her and not 'Ol' Bob', the physically and mentally decaying permanent leader. All those who saw his most recent public appearances could no longer believe that he was still fully in charge. Without any scruples, his second wife, formerly his typist, used the Mugabe label for her own ends. For a long time no one dared to object. Critics were removed from the circle of power. President Mugabe did nothing to counter this but placed his confidence fully and solely in his wife. But with the influential Emmerson Mnangagwa, Grace Mugabe met her match. Mugabe's longtime ally, freedom fighter, former defense minister and vice president was out of the league of the former typist, who was herself only 14 at the time of Zimbabwe's liberation in 1980 and can boast no achievements of her own.

Author Claus Stäcker

Claus Stäcker is the head of DW's Africa service

Grace Mugabe is one of the most disliked people in Zimbabwe. She has steadily built up her store of riches and influence and has made more and more enemies with her poisonous remarks. Her supporters include some of the most unscrupulous people who have just been lining their own pockets, and hardcore Leninists. They have all miscalculated.

Against this background, the military is the best option, not least because there is no other. It is renowned for its efficient organization, also to be seen in the battle against pandemics such as malaria and cholera. In contrast, the pathetic appearance of the - also disempowered - police speaks volumes. Zimbabwe is a militarized state. Former members of the military head parastatals amd large sections of the mining sector pay directly into army coffers. Veterans from the liberation struggle are everywhere. Equally numerous are perpetrators active in the early years, including Air Marshal Perence Shiri who was involved in genocidal massacres of the Ndebele minority in the early 1980s. 

The coup perpetrators are ensuring one thing only: stability. Even opposition politician and former finance minister Tendai Biti paid tribute to the military for the well prepared action which took place without a bloodbath or attacks against the civilian population.

This does not make it a good coup. No one should be under the illusion that the interim rulers will put the ruined country back on its feet again. String-puller Mnangagwa, who went into exile in South Africa and in all likelihood informed the new world power China of the imminent coup, is a man of the past. It is not yet the hour of the opposition which is split into more camps than the governing ZANU-PF party.

 In this situation the military can ensure an orderly transition which would conclude with genuinely free elections, something Zimbabwe has not experienced for the last 15 years.

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