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 Post subject: A Very Quiet Coup
 Post Posted: Sun Nov 26, 2017 11:16 pm 
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Not sure how many of you have noticed what's been going on in Zimbabwe these last couple of weeks.

Many of you are probably familiar with the dictator, Robert Mugabe, who has maintained a strong hold on power there for the last thirty-seven years. (Mind you, he didn't start out an evil dictator - but the latter half of his rule has certainly been evil-dictator territory). This is a man who had people suspected of voting for other parties beaten up and blatantly rigged his own elections (and, even with all the blatant rigging, his party - the Zanu-PF - couldn't quite win it but managed to cling onto power in any case). Under his rule, Zimbabwe went from a functioning economy to a nightmare of hyperinflation and complete economic collapse.

Two weeks ago, he was as secure as ever. Then it all changed.

It started out with some popular military leader (I think the vice-president?) getting thrown out the party, possibly because Mugabe felt threatened. Then there was a photo going round the news organisations of a military vehicle driving towards the capital (Harare) and some rumours of a coup underway. Next thing we heard, the military had occupied all the important parts of government, Mugabe was under house arrest, and his wife had fled the country. (Rumour said Namibia, but I don't think anyone's actually quite sure where she went. She certainly wasn't doing anything to draw attention).

I don't know if there was any actual fighting at any point. Mugabe's an old man - in his nineties - and I get the impression that when the military turned up, everyone else just quietly got out of the day. A lot of Zimbabwean schools were closed, and people stayed home, just in case, but mass violence seemed to be completely avoided.

There were several days of pressure on Mugabe to resign. At first, he was expected to, but instead used his speech to call for unity and refuse to resign - one gets the impression of him thinking that he could rally his supporters and oust the military. Then he called a meeting of his ministers, at which apparently maybe three bothered to even turn up - the rest of them, along with pretty much the entire Zanu-PF party, were too busy telling the world how much they'd never really been backing Mugabe's dictatorship. And I get the impression that even those three would be advising Mugabe to retire with what dignity he has left.

Shortly after this, Mugabe actually resigned, presumably realising that he doesn't really have much in the way of allies anywhere anymore. Zimbabweans rejoiced as the former vice president (now returned) was sworn in as President - one sound clip that played on the news consisted of an overjoyed yell of "I have a future!" - and there is still going to be an actual election next year. (That is to say, they rejoiced at the end of the Mugabe presidency. We shall see whether this new guy does anything rejoiceworthy - but it's going to be hard for him not to be an improvement).

So... military coup, but minimal if any actual fighting and the previous leader is being given the chance to retire (not the choice to retire, there was a very heavily element of coercion in there, but he's being permitted to live out his remaining years) and with every expectation of the country having an elected government next year.

Parallels with Zuma's current position have already been drawn.

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 Post subject: Re: A Very Quiet Coup
 Post Posted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 3:01 am 
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I read about that. Color me impressed. While I'm sure it's big news in Zimbabwe, we only got a few days coverage over here, so either outside communication has been locked down like a vice, or things really are going that smoothly. Until I see evidence to the contrary, I choose to believe the latter.

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 Post subject: Re: A Very Quiet Coup
 Post Posted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 4:04 am 
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I'm not gonna be happy about it yet. I hear that Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa was Mugabe's enforcer all of these years, and they call the man The Crocodile for a reason. Coups are only a good thing if things get better. But this guy? Doesn't sound promising.

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 Post subject: Re: A Very Quiet Coup
 Post Posted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 4:55 am 
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balthazar wrote:
either outside communication has been locked down like a vice, or things really are going that smoothly.


These guys are our next-door neighbours, and our news outlets are quite good at ferreting things out (and very good about honestly saying when they don't know something). I can't say for sure whether or not some people - like Mugabe - weren't dragged off to a locked room with a big guy with brass knuckles or anything of that sort, but so far as the ordinary man-on-the-street knows, it really does seem to have gone that smoothly.

Kea wrote:
I'm not gonna be happy about it yet. I hear that Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa was Mugabe's enforcer all of these years, and they call the man The Crocodile for a reason. Coups are only a good thing if things get better. But this guy? Doesn't sound promising.


Yeah, he's not the person anyone would want ruling their country, and I'm not expecting Zimbabwe to become a shining example of freedom and democracy out of this. On the other hand... the economy is already broken and scattered into little pieces. It's not like he can break it any further.

I don't know whether things will get better or not (though he could use his superpower of Not Being Mugabe to try to draw in a bit of international foreign investment, that could make a dramatic improvement already). But it's hard to see how things could get much worse, short of civil war or genocide.

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 Post subject: Re: A Very Quiet Coup
 Post Posted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 12:34 pm 
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Didn't Mugabe and the new president team up to do some ethnic cleansing back in the early 80s? If this brings about an actual election which results in a peaceful transition of power, I'll be happy. If it's an obvious farce as usual, it'll be the usual disappointment. If the opposition guys appear to lose legitimately, facepalm.

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 Post subject: Re: A Very Quiet Coup
 Post Posted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 5:04 pm 
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It all depends on if the Zimbabwean elites intend to keep going the way they are going, just with a slight rebranding, or if they are prepared to trade some power for security. Or if they are heading for an internal powerstruggle, it just has not happened yet, because no one figured Mugabe would help them, or some faction(s) were caught off guard and so did not react yet.

The last option could even make things worse.

Is there any indication if the plan seems to be, that the new president is supposed to stay, or if he is intended as interim solution?

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 Post subject: Re: A Very Quiet Coup
 Post Posted: Tue Nov 28, 2017 2:06 am 
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CCC wrote:
But it's hard to see how things could get much worse, short of civil war or genocide.

You just spelled out exactly how things can get worse.

What always happens when a new guy takes over? Purges. He's gonna be busting heads within the government and the army to make sure everybody who's left is loyal to him. What happens if somebody decides to challenge him? Either the opposition, or a rival within his party? Civil war. And if it breaks along tribal lines (dunno how much of a factor that is in Zimbabwe), genocide.

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 Post subject: Re: A Very Quiet Coup
 Post Posted: Tue Nov 28, 2017 3:14 am 
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Interestingly, so far, he seems to be more interested in firing people than killing them. If he wanted a purge... well, a military coup would have provided a perfect excuse to get the killing started. But, so far, he seems to be taking pains to deliberately avoid that. I'm hoping that this mindset continues.

Of course, it's worth noting that there seems to be a distinct lack of any organised disagreement to his presidency. He's still in charge of Mugabe's former party, who are falling over themselves to denounce Mugabe, and I haven't heard any complaints from the opposition yet - I suspect that he might be avoiding a purge by simply making sure that there is no opposition that he has any particular desire to purge in the first place.

Given the smoothness and speed of his very quiet coup, I get the impression that this is a man who really knows how to plan things, and who thinks before he acts. He can and will be ruthless when required (he was implicated in a genocide in around the 1980s) but I honestly don't see how he benefits in any way from a civil war right now. Especially as he'd pretty much need to organise someone to have a civil war against. And, even more especially, if there's a civil war then he'd have to live in it, and I don't think he really wants that.

On the other hand, he does benefit from rebuilding the economy, at least insofar as to get reliable water and electricity working again - the immediate benefit of this is that he gets a massive popularity boost (added to the popularity from ousting Mugabe) and easily wins future elections. (And, if he's clever about how he does it - which indications are that he is - then he gets foreign aid organisations to foot the bill, so there's no particular cost to him personally). And if he can get the agricultural sector working again - well, then he can pretty much just sit back and rake in the money, and at every step he can handle everything in a perfectly legal manner (with only the occasional questionmark over said legality).

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 Post subject: Re: A Very Quiet Coup
 Post Posted: Tue Nov 28, 2017 10:36 pm 
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Let's just hope that all the people he fired agree to stay fired, and don't secretly have the backing of 1/3 of the military or something.

And also, that he has the slightest clue about how to haul the economy out of the hole his own party drove it into.

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 Post subject: Re: A Very Quiet Coup
 Post Posted: Tue Dec 05, 2017 5:21 am 
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Well, Zimbabwe continues to avoid both civil war and genocide. Mnangagwa has appointed his new cabinet - which apparently bears a remarkably strong similarity to Mugabe's cabinet, only with more military people in it - and he's making what seems to be a serious effort to pull Zimbabwe out of its economic hole, by (for example) offering people a legal amnesty for the crime of taking money illegally out of the country as long as they bring it back within three months.

It certainly looks like Mnangagwa is going to be doing a better job than Mugabe - though that's an extremely low bar to clear. A better question (and a much higher bar to clear) might be - will he do at least a half-decent job?

The next Zimbabwean elections will be in about six or seven months. We should be able to see what the voters think of him then.

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 Post subject: Re: A Very Quiet Coup
 Post Posted: Tue Dec 05, 2017 6:13 am 
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Does Zimbabwe even have real elections? We won't find out what the voters really think if their elections are rife with intimidation and fraud.

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 Post subject: Re: A Very Quiet Coup
 Post Posted: Tue Dec 05, 2017 6:26 am 
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They haven't, for the past several years - voters would have had to deal with Mugabe's bullies harassing anyone expected not to vote for him. But it was unsubtle, and fairly obvious. If Mnangagwa has to resort to similar tactics, I don't expect it to stay hidden (and I'll count that as an automatic result of 'voters would rather have someone else'). Especially since international reporters will no doubt be watching very carefully for signs of such trouble.

In a fair contest, though, I think Mnangagwa's got quite a good chance already; if he can ride the popularity from getting rid of Mugabe and get electricity and water running again, even just running more often than they are now, then he might even have an excellent chance.

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 Post subject: Re: A Very Quiet Coup
 Post Posted: Wed Dec 06, 2017 6:41 am 
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Well, now the Zimbabwean army and police have started forcibly pushing illegal vendors off the sides of the streets, in what looks like an attempt to clean up the city and make it look smart.

On the one hand, these were illegal vendors (and apparently some of the more formal shopkeepers are quite happy at their competition being chased off) - on the other hand, a lot of these people have few other ways of getting their daily bread.

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