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Former Vice-President Mnangagwa expected to take over; he recently supported militarisation of agriculture

It's official: the Mugabe era is over

The long-awaited end of the Mugabe era (or as some have called it, the Mugabe ‘error’) seems to have come at last: President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace are allegedly under house arrest in Harare, together with a number of other cabinet ministers and, reportedly, the police commissioner, all of whom were rounded up last night. Government buildings and the airport (just last week renamed the Robert Mugabe International Airport) are heavily guarded.

A statement from 93-year old President Mugabe is expected imminently in which he concedes his resignation.

The Zimbabwean military and Zanu-PF communications, however, maintain that there has been no coup nor any constitutional violation. “The army is simply effecting a National Democratic Project and it's doing so with peaceful aplomb,” states governing party Zanu-PF’s official Twitter account which also adds: “Neither Zimbabwe nor ZANU are owned by Mugabe and his wife.”

It is believed that former Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was summarily fired last week and fled the country, has returned to a military air force base in Zimbabwe. He has been a confidante of Mugabe’s for decades, closely connected with the army and was regarded as the president-in-waiting as far back as the 1990s. 

Alienating Mnangagwa was a strategic mistake by Mugabe, who appears to have underestimated the military’s reaction, their dislike of his wife and her presidential ambitions (it is said that the army “loathes” her) and the guarantee of support they had given him.

Emmerson Mnangagwa (Photo: Zimbabwe Independent)

Zanu-PF is riven with factions, for instance the G40 faction that supports Grace Mugabe’s presidential ambitions. As Mnangagwa stood in her way, there had been a creeping purge of party members belonging to other factions.

A major factor in Zimbabwean politics is war experience. The military has been clear that it would never support any presidential candidate without experience in Zimbabwe’s war of independence (the Second Chimurenga) that ended in 1979 and led to Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980.

“Everybody wants Mugabe out, we were all desiring change, so we’re cautiously optimistic, but this is uncharted territory. From now on the military will publicly dictate who stays in power. No-one wants a military government. We’re hoping for a return to a constitutional democracy,” says a Zimbabwean political commentator.

Mnangagwa’s mooted militarisation of agriculture
Just before his ousting, a motion by former Vice-President Mnangagwa to intensify the role of the army in the country’s controversial command agriculture project, was defeated in parliament. The parliamentary debate was, unusually, attended by a number of army generals but was turned down by those of the G40 faction.

“During the land reforms of the 1990s the military was everywhere and his proposal to militarise agriculture is disturbing and unsettling. It could be seen as a strategic power play to assert power, wanting to outdo other factions,” remarks a Zimbabwean economist. “I hope the military will stay out of the economy. I think, however, the VP [Mnangagwa] has become more of a pragmatist. In a statement after his resignation, he said that there was an intolerance in Zanu-PF. I suspect he might be more open to engage with the opposition. He could bring a fresh perspective to politics in Zimbabwe.”

“I don’t think they’ll mistreat Mugabe. They still have a residual respect and a soft spot for him,” a well-placed source told FreshPlaza. Mugabe's liking for Southeast Asia is well-known and it is widely expected that he’ll go into exile in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong or, perhaps, Dubai.

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