An ex-dictator and the Mnangagwa regime behind the façade of legality: Effect on UK based Zimbabwean activists

There are some, who would readily dismiss without further thought Robert Mugabe’s  recent denouncements of the  military intervention of November 2017,  including  what he says happened during the  takeover.   Mugabe is  mad  they exclaim.   He is a  bitter, senile  old man they mutter  with exasperation.   That might be  substantially or wholly  true but consider for  a while,  if you will, whether there is  any shred of truth  in what he says  happened  last year:

“ ……The Central Intelligence Organisation,  many of whose members were bashed, with heads cracked and this is not an exaggeration,  some of them are missing to this day…..” 15 March 2018, SABC Digital News, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2f6akTpjIHo

It is not  really  what Mugabe says  about  the events  leading to and during his ouster  as much as what he says regarding his claim that  the military committed human rights abuses during the takeover, that is of  concern.   The claim  amounts to this: whilst outwardly  seeking to dress  the  military takeover  with some  veneer of legitimacy and presenting it as bloodless, the military and Mnangagwa’s regime should be accountable for missing Zimbabwean citizens.

In  November 2017, Mnangagwa  and Chiwenga  embarked  upon  a power grab, whose roots did not have the consensus  of the Zimbabwean people until they were manipulatively  beguiled into  demonstrating  against Mugabe  on 18 November 2017.  The Zimbabwean masses  clearly made  the job easy  for the army; as Mnangagwa subsequently  pronounced, “The voice of the people is the voice of God”.   His  ascendancy  to power  therefore appeared to have  the total approval of the Zimbabwean people.

The problem however is this:  if  what Mugabe  says is true,  in combination with the fact that  Zimbabweans are being  ruled by  an unelected president,  propped up by a violent military,  with a seeming  illegitimate   government running the day to day lives of ordinary Zimbabwean, then Zimbabwe is  still very  far from  the beginnings of any democratic walk.   Such an illegitimate  regime as seems to be running the order of things in  Zimbabwe,   has from its inception ridden  rough shod over  human rights and  abducted  opponents.  That these opponents  were or are  pro-Mugabe should  be no less worrisome.  Soon, very soon, just like his previous Master,   Mnangagwa  may likely  turn round and mete out the very same  violent treatment on a larger scale against  the ordinary  Zimbabwean and other opposition supporters.

 

Abuses during the military takeover of November 2017:

Take Mugabe’s rantings out of the equation for a moment,  as the mutterings  of a disillusioned  old man still in the throes of  denial,   and introduce  a few background sources:

“(Harare) – Zimbabwe authorities should uphold the rights of everyone detained following the military takeover of the government on November 15, 2017, Human Rights Watch said today. The military should publicly acknowledge the identities and location of everyone arrested and detained, and ensure that their due process rights, including access to lawyers and family members, are respected. The military should clear the air about any arrests across Zimbabwe and hand over any criminal suspects to the appropriate civilian authorities according to law,” said Dewa Mavhinga, Southern Africa director at Human Rights Watch. “Failing to disclose the whereabouts of those detained is an enforced disappearance that places detainees at greater risk of abuse. During the military takeover, Maj. Gen. S.B. Moyo announced the military’s avowed aim of arresting “criminals around Mugabe.”  Media reports indicate the military arrested a number of former president Robert Mugabe’s associates and that they remain in detention.  However, the military has not provided information about any arrest, location, and conditions of detention, or reasons for arrest……..The Zimbabwe constitution provides for the pretrial rights of detainees and guarantees freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. Zimbabwe is also party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which guarantee rights to personal liberty and due process, and protection from arbitrary arrest and detention, and mistreatment in custody.  “The end of Mugabe’s 37 years of abusive rule should not be marked by continued rights violations,” Mavhinga said.  “Respect for the rule of law and due process for anyone in detention would signal a clean break with the past.” Human Rights Watch, 22 November 2017, https://www.hrw.org/print/311769

Following the military takeover, Robert Mugabe resigned as president on November 21 after 37 years of authoritarian rule marred by countless serious human rights violations. On November 24, Mugabe was replaced by his former deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has his own long record of rights violations. ………………… As reports of abuses by the military since the takeover began to emerge, the excitement and euphoria that many Zimbabweans greeted the end of Mugabe’s rule quickly fizzled out to be replaced by uneasiness and uncertainty.  Allegations are rife that between November 14 and 24, the army arrested and detained a number of Mugabe’s associates without providing information about the arrests, or places and conditions of detention……………… This is the same military that has been credibly implicated in rights violations against the general population during the Mugabe years. Mugabe openly encouraged partisanship of the military as a tool for maintaining his grip on power. The new president, Mnangagwa, assumed office with military backing, and appointed two army generals to cabinet, Air Marshal Perence Shiri, and Maj. Gen. Sibusiso Moyo.  This raised concerns about Mnangagwa’s independence from the armed forces, suggests further entrenchment of the military in civilian affairs..” Human Rights Watch, 12 December 2017, https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/12/12/zimbabwe-after-military-takeover-prospects-credible-elections-and-human-rights

“The military police arrested a number of suspects on charges of fraud and corruption. Those arrested included senior state officials, implicated in corruption, whose rights were denied on arrest, including by being denied access to lawyers. During the military takeover in November, army personnel detained several members of a ZANU- PF faction who were alleged to support Emmerson Mnangagwa’s dismissal. They were held for more than the constitutionally permitted 48 hours before being brought to court. Former Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo, ZANU-PF Youth League Commissar Innocent Hamandishe, and ZANU-PF Youth League secretary Kudzanayi Chipanga, were arrested and detained by military police on 14 November. During their detention they were denied access to their lawyers and were not taken to court until 25 November. Ignatius Chombo was charged with corruption and criminal abuse of office; Kudzanayi Chipanga and Innocent Hamandishe were charged with publishing or communicating falsehoods after they claimed at a press conference that Army Commander General Chiwenga stole money from the sale of Marange diamonds.” Zimbabwe 2017/2018, Amnesty International, https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/africa/zimbabwe/report-zimbabwe/

It has only been fours months since the  military takeover of 2017.  It is clear that the  above  sources barely begin to  skim over the surface regarding what truly happened  during  the military takeover.  The  extent of  the abuses committed in November 2017 might emerge weeks,  months, years  or even decades from now.  This  should not be surprising.  After all,  nearly 40years ago people witnessed killings; there were bodies;  people point to graves and  some are still yet to heal  from   the Gukurahundi Matabeleland  atrocities committed in the 1980’s  but  till date,  no one has been held accountable  for  such abuses  committed at a time when Mugabe was in power along with his henchmen including President Mnangagwa.

 

The terror behind the “democratizing  coup”:

It  is very likely there is  much more simmer to  the  political cauldron  behind the curtains than is apparent giving rise to Mugabe’s  recent media outbursts.  It is surely  the Master  seeking to draw out the monster lying latent  within the Pupil.   Barely a week ago, Mnangagwa fired off a warning shot to Mugabe: “ President Emmerson Mnangagwa has warned Robert Mugabe and his ally Ambrose Mutinhiri over their new outfit known as National Patriotic Front (NPF)………… “Currently we see and hear that there is some new party. We are not happy with what the media is saying. We are not yet sure if this is true or not but, once we get factual information, we will not hesitate to take action,” said Mnangagwa.   Zanu PF Secretary for Youth Affairs, Pupurai Togarepi, also blasted Mugabe and ordered him to behave and be a responsible politician. “Can someone please try and talk to Robert Mugabe? He must withdraw his behavior and be responsible. If he fails to respect the revolution, we will stop respecting him in future. “We fear no one. Those thieves (G40) must stop provoking us through seeking media attention.  It is the Youth League’s responsibility to defend the Revolutionary Party,” Togarepi said”.   8 March 2018, Zimbabwe: Mnangagwa Warns Mugabe and Mutinhiri, Says Unhappy With New Party, https://allafrica.com/stories/201803080002.html

Despite  the muted pretence  that the events of November 2017 were not a coup,  amidst the euphoria came a word of warning:

“The Zimbabwean Army nonetheless insists that “this is not a military takeover of government.” Even as tanks patrol the streets of the capital, Harare, and the tap-tap of military-issue boots echoes across the corridors of power, the generals repeat that old refrain: They just want to restore order and improve Zimbabwe’s ailing economy. Their intervention, the generals insist, is a patriotic act that will improve life for all. And while it is true that Mugabe is a ruthless despot who has woefully mismanaged Zimbabwe for the past four decades, a military coup is not the right way to end his reign. World history is full of atrocities committed in the name of law and order. The international community should be concerned about what’s happening in Zimbabwe right now. I’m an Argentinean scholar of Latin American militarization, and I can attest that so-called “democratizing coups” are largely fiction………… Some have likewise suggested that Mugabe’s overthrow may be an opportunity for Zimbabwe. United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson even expressed hope that a “stable and successful” country will emerge from the coup. I’m extremely dubious. Latin American history shows that military dictatorships do not help nations advance or build democracy. Instead, they leave stunted states unable to guarantee democratic legitimacy or ensure social well-being…………. Many Zimbabweans therefore probably don’t see much of a difference between the egotistical, self-glorifying – and technically democratically elected – President Mugabe and the military bosses who sent tanks into Harare and stationed armed soldiers at major buildings and routes. I would dispute that Zimbabwe’s political rupture will usher in an era of order and progress. And I think many Latin Americans would agree with me. I wish Zimbabweans luck, but based on my country’s past, I fear for their future….”. The Conversation,  https://theconversation.com/latin-american-history-suggests-zimbabwes-military-coup-will-turn-violent-87648

It might not  need the Zimbabwean opposition to bring out  Mangangwa’s violent  nature:  he might well bite sooner rather than later and react in retaliation to the targeted  taunts  emanating from  the  very political opponents who are pro- Mugabe that  he has been hounding  since November 2017.

 

Impact upon UK based Zimbabwean  activists and protesters:

Activists and social  medial protesters clearly  need to up their game.  Mnangagwa has himself turned to social media on a charm offensives campaign http://www.africanews.com/2018/01/15/mnangagwa-turns-to-social-media-to-engage-zimbabweans//.

In relation to the youth, clearly the battle ground is  seen as social media: “President Emmerson Mnangagwa is not taking the threat of social media for granted and has urged Zanu PF youths to fight toe-to-toe with opposition parties as the ruling party bids to capture the elusive youth vote. Mnangagwa, who has been using his newly reactivated social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter, admits he is not as techno-savvy as the younger generation but urged Zanu PF youths at the wing’s inaugural assembly to engage the opposition on social media. “Isu nana Mai Muchinguri-Kashiri hatizvigone. Musakundwa mu social media imomo pindai mu social media murakashe vanhu (We are not techno savvy. Don’t be beaten to the game. Get in there and dominate social media),” Mnangagwa said to applause from the Zanu PF youths”. 9 March 2018, Zimbabwe Situation, http://www.zimbabwesituation.com/news/zanu-pf-tackles-rivals-on-social-media/

Various UK based human rights and civic groups  have,  among other issues,  been clamouring for  the Mnangagwa  regime to  account for  the Gukurahundi genocide, ensure  free and  fair elections as well as protesting against  military rule in Zimbabwe.  Where  it is the case that some in Zimbabwe  might  now  have rested on their laurels assuming that  with Mugabe’s exist, Mangangwa will bring them to the promised land, those in the diaspora who have experienced a true taster of some  democratic freedoms, still have a job or two to  do to keep going that cry of  resistance against oppression,  tyranny, corruption and dictatorial tendencies  ingrained within the DNA of the  current Zimbabwean regime.