Despite President Robert Mugabe making his first public appearance today after an apparent ‘coup’ many days ago, uncertainty continues to reign supreme among the people of Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwean Military’s decision to put Mugabe under house arrest on Wednesday and take over the state broadcaster, ZBC while also barricading roads was termed a ‘coup’ in some quarters. However, the military released a statement on the same day insisting that the military was only “targeting criminals around him (Mugabe) that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice.” Insiders say Mugabe has been given until today to step down, but who replaces him?
The return of Mugabe’s former VP, Emerson Mnangagwa whose sack by Mugabe last week triggered the military takeover, is a promise of something more. While the military is agitating for Mugabe, who has been president for 37 years, to step down, Mugabe is negotiating his exit while delaying what seems rather inevitable. And as seen in his stance during his first public appearance today, Mugabe doesn’t look like he is under pressure to quit. But as negotiations continue, there is still a lot of uncertainty around who will be president if Mugabe steps down. It is important to note that Mugabe is under no compulsion to step down since his mandate expires next year.
Though the president’s wife Grace Mugabe was allegedly being groomed to replace her husband, all plans for that have been thrown out the door. The Military’s takeover will seemingly ensure that Mnangagwa would be acting president ahead of next year’s presidential elections in Zimbabwe. However, whether the military wants him to be president longer than that is unclear. General Constantino Chiwenga, Zimbabwean Army chief of Staff is a key ally for Mnangagwa and forcing a 93-year-old despot out of power will help his friend.
There have been speculations that a transitional government is in the books to take over, but who heads the transitional government is also uncertain according to Kudzai Zvinavashe, a freelance journalist based in Zimbabwe who spoke with Ventures Africa this morning. “At a press conference yesterday, the leader of Zimbabwe’s main opposition party MDC, Morgan Tsvangirai called for the reisgnation of Mugabe for the benefit of the people.” Kudzai said.
The opposition parties, as is usual under Mugabe, could find themselves sidelined even after Mugabe is deposed. A transitional government that would not include members of the opposition party would further divide the country. While next year’s presidential elections present a fresh start for Zimbabwe, a coalition of the Zimbabwean Defense Forces (ZDF) and Mugabe’s party the ZANU-PF could present the same old narrative for Zimbabwe, only without Mugabe. The party which has been Robert Mugabe’s backbone for years, felt betrayed when Mugabe sought to make his wife president to replace him. However, to replace Mugabe with Mnangagwa through the military (even after elections next year) would be detrimental to democracy in Zimbabwe and would hardly be a change from who they want out of office.