For many years, the West, including the United States and the EU states, especially the former colonial power United Kingdom aimed to “change the regime” in Zimbabwe, applying sanctions and waging a constant information war, which, of course, could not but affect negatively the situation in this country. But it seems that the current events were caused, first of all, by internal struggle and, moreover, by subjective factors.
Dramatic events are taking place in Zimbabwe. According to contradictory media reports, by the morning of November 16, the 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe was at home under the protection of the military, his wife Grace either with him or already abroad, in Namibia. But the departure of Mugabe from the political arena after 37 years of being at the helm seems inevitable.
Despite that, he was going again to run for presidency in the 2019 elections. Moreover, many Zimbabwean experts believed that he and his ZANU-PF party would win.
There were real reasons. Both Mugabe and his party won a convincing victory in the previous general elections in 2014, and the opposition, above all the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), split again after its defeat. “The reason is very simple,” a prominent Zimbabwean diplomat told me in this regard. “After the defeat, their funding from abroad decreased, so the fight between them increased.”
But the paradox of political life in Zimbabwe was that disagreements and splits began among the winners. A year and a half later, Joyce Mujuru, the widow of Solomon Mujuru, the first commander of the armed forces of independent Zimbabwe, who is considered a hero of the liberation struggle, was removed from office by the vice president of the party and country, and then removed from ZANU-PF. A similar fate befell Didymus Mutasu, who was the security minister. Both of them created groups of opposition against Mugabe.
But this did not stop feuds inside the Zimbabwean leadership. The next “victim” was another veteran of the anti-colonial war, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who had already replaced Mujuro as the second person in the party and the state. Grace Mugabe, who is more than 40 years her husband’s junior, began to pretend to be the successor to the aging president. An open struggle for the place of the still-living president began between the two factions in ZANU-PF. Mugabe’s wife seemed to be winning: on November 6, Mnangagwa was also removed from the post of vice-president, expelled from the party and forced to flee through Mozambique to South Africa. His rival Grace Mugabe was to become new vice-president of the party at the planned ZANU-PF congress, and then vice-president of the country, successor to a noticeably weak leader.
The withdrawal of Mnangagwa, who is close to the Zimbabwean military (not so long ago he was the minister of defense) and the threat of further dismissals caused obvious discontent in the army. On Monday, November 13, the commander of the Zimbabwean Defense Forces, Constantine Chiwenga, said directly at the press conference that the army “will have to intervene if the purges do not stop.” On the same evening, information minister Simon Khaya-Moyo, on behalf of the country’s leadership said that the general’s behaviour was “treacherous”, but it was too late.
On the night of November 14, the military seized the building of the Radio and Television of Zimbabwe, and then other strategic sites in Harare, including Mugabe’s residence. At the same time, in an official statement in the early morning of November 15, the military stressed that they did not make a coup, that Mugabe and his family were safe, and that they were only fighting “criminals around him who committed crimes ... causing social and economic suffering.”
For many years, the West, including the United States and the EU countries, especially the former colonial power United Kingdom aimed to “change the regime” in Zimbabwe, applying sanctions and waging a constant information war, which, of course, could not but affect negatively the situation in this country. But it seems that the current events were caused, first of all, by internal struggle and, moreover, by subjective factors.
Now it is difficult to guess exactly how the events will develop. Information is rather contradictory: there are reports about Mugabe’s “abdication,” and about Mnangagwa’s return to Zimbabwe (by the way, he is already 75 years old) in order to lead either the former government or the new one, with the participation of others political forces (possibly including the opposition). The countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are not left behind. Its current chairman, South African President Jacob Zuma, has already sent his representatives to Harare. The rules of SADC and the African Union do not recognize the change of power by force, so we can expect that the military will not lead the country.
Russia has friendly relations with Zimbabwe, and there are serious, but rather slow plans for cooperation in the economy, primarily in the mining sector. Let us hope, that the changes in Zimbabwe, with all their drama, will lead to stability, allowing to develop successful bilateral cooperation between Zimbabwe and Russia.