Winds of change in Zimbabwe

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Events are unfolding rapidly in Zimbabwe, thus at the time of writing it is only possible to speculate on what may happen in the wake of the military coup d’état that occurred on Tuesday 14 November.

Distilling all the available intelligence, however, suggests that Robert Mugabe will resign fairly shortly and that an interim administration, headed by former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, will be formed.

There appears to be little, if any popular opposition to the coup and most people interviewed in the media tend to subscribe to the view that anything is better than a continuation of Mugabe’s malignant regime.

Mugabe obviously overplayed his hand last week by firing his longtime struggle ally, Mnangagwa, probably at the behest of his opportunistic wife, Grace. It is no secret that Grace has had her eye on the top job in Zimbabwe and has effectively been the power behind the throne for some time now, as Robert Mugabe has become ever more frail and senile.

Mnangagwa is very close to the armed forces, thus is was perhaps no surprise that the military came to his aid when they did. Targeting the so-called “G40” grouping headed up by Grace, the military intend purging the government of anti-Mnangagwa elements and restoring the administration to one that more closely aligns with the ideals of the struggle of the 1960s and 70s.

So what will an Emmerson Mnangagwa administration look like and what will its likely impact be on South Africa?

Mnangagwa has a reputation for being extremely ruthless; in effect, being Mugabe’s hatchet man. Although he denies it, Mnangagwa is widely believed to have been behind the North Korean-trained 5th Brigade, which performed atrocities in Matabeleland in the 1980s.

But Mnangagwa is also a very wealthy individual and is a pragmatist. He knows that perpetuating Mugabe’s ruinous ideals will merely result in Zimbabwe’s basket-case status remaining. He is probably already being courted by a variety of regional and foreign corporates, all looking to participate in a rejuvenation of this once prosperous country.

It has been suggested that the interim administration will comprise what is effectively a government of national unity, incorporating Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangarai as prime minister. The military needs to implement a civilian government as soon as possible, so as to avoid any potential conflict with regional bodies such as SADC.

Thus there remain a very slim possibility that, after 37 years of Mugabe’s dreadful reign, a ray of light could be appearing on the far horizon.

Chris Gilmour is an investment analyst

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