Zimbabwe poll: the bar for success is low, the stakes are high and it’s a close race

The Conversation


Supporters of the opposition MDC Alliance in Unity Square before marching to protest outside the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. David Moore

David B. Moore
Professor of Development Studies and Visiting Researcher, Institute of Pan-African Thought and Conversation, University of Johannesburg
Disclosure statement: David B. Moore does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.
Partners: University of Johannesburg  provides funding as a partner of The Conversation AFRICA.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the ruling Zanu-PF hope a credible victory in the July 30 election will legitimise the power (both party and state) they gained from the “soft coup” that toppled his predecessor Robert Mugabe last November.

With victory, they say, the donors and dollars will flood in to the country they have resurrected from nearly two moribund decades. Zimbabwe is now “open for business” and will thrive. Zanu-PF’s resurrection will thus be complete.

But a new survey suggests Zanu-PF should stall any premature celebration plans. The latest one showed that, in the space of one month, Nelson Chamisa’s MDC-Alliance has closed the gap with Zanu-PF. The surveys are conducted by Afrobarometer, an independent research network that conducts public attitude surveys across Africa and its Zimbabwean partner, Mass Public Opinion Institute, a non-profit, non-governmental research organisation.

If the respondents were to cast their ballot now Mnangagwa would take 40% of the votes and opposition leader Nelson Chamisa would take 37%. The still undecided or not-saying potential voters are at 20%. Split that and you get a 50/47 race.

The numbers are very close indeed. If not a victory for the MDC-Alliance, this looks like a presidential runoff. The MDC-Allaince has a 49% to 26% lead in the cities and towns and in the countryside the figures are 30% for the opposition to Zanu-PF’s 48%. In parliament Zanu-PF would get 41% to the MDC-Alliance’s 36. This is a big change from May’s survey.

Given the MDC-Alliance momentum, the post-Mugabe Zanu-PF’s hopes of a resurrection may be dashed. A great deal hangs on both parties’ ability to manage this interregnum.

Big trade-offs will be negotiated, ranging from coalition governments, which the poll shows has the backing from 60% of respondents, to amnesties for the chief crooks and killers.

Striking deals might indeed lie at the centre of whether or not the election is a success. That’s because this election is about grabbing back the core of hardwon democracy from a military dominated regime. It’s about cleansing out generations of fear.

That is a hard task at any time. It’s harder still when it took a coup to retire its prime source.

A divided Zanu-PF

Mnangagwa has been spectacularly unsuccessful at winning past elections in his own constituencies, standing for parliament three times and losing twice.

The factions in Zanu-PF that squared up against one another prior to the coup – the Generation-40 group that supported Grace Mugabe for the party and state president and Lacoste, which supported Mnangagwa – are still battling along lines more ethnically drawn than ever. Some of the losers in the Generation-40 group have left the party to form the National Patriotic Front.

Although the perpetrators have not been found, the blast at Zanu-PF’s Bulawayo rally in late June that killed two people and only narrowly missed a whole stage of luminaries, could suggest that the party’s wounds have yet to heal.

And the soldiers are not of one mind.

If the military side of the somewhat shaky post-coup pact in Zanu-PF fears losing an election, and thus access to more of the wealth more power can bring, the free and fair dimensions of the electoral contest would be drastically diminished. Would a repeat of mid-2008’s post-electoral mayhem, when at least 170 people were killed and nearly 800 beaten or raped, ensue?

To make matters more complex, there are no guarantees that hungry and angry junior army officers would follow their seniors’ attempts to alter the peoples’ will.

Mnangagwa could be at some of the soldier’s mercy. Some suggest that Constantino Chiwenga, the mercurial vice-president and – unconstitutionally – defence minister might be among them.

Others argue that the two leaders need each other if the régime is going to deliver on promises of a clean election

And as George Charamba, Zimbabwe’s permanent secretary for information, put it:

This election is about restoring international re-engagement and legitimacy …. It must be flawless, it must be transparent, it must be free, it must be fair, it must meet international standards, it must be violence free and therefore it must be universally endorsed because it is an instrument of foreign policy … It’s about re-engagement and legitimacy; we are playing politics at a higher level.

This is a clarion call for a free and fair poll. If the election fails to meet these expectations and its results are tight, legitimacy could be maintained with carefully calculated deals. Perhaps the unity government widely expected during the coup could reappear.

A rising opposition

Chamisa and the MDC (the alliance is made up of seven parties, most having split from the late Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC), appear to be building on the momentum they seem to have gained by challenging the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s management of the contest. The alliance has challenged the commission’s neutrality and raised concerns over the accuracy of the voters’ roll.

Not all its allegations necessarily stand up to scrutiny. The 250,000 alleged ghosts may be a canard, but as Derek Matyszak, the Institute for Security Studies man in Harare, argues, the roll was not released in time for the primaries so none of the candidates are constitutionally valid.

Emboldened by the lack of police, thousands of protesters led by the MDC-Alliance marched to the commission’s headquarters on July 11, showing no fear.

If this impetus keeps building over the next week, a victory is conceivable. So is a presidential run-off. To be sure, the ruling party might win fairly, but the opposition will have to be convinced of that. The mode of politics for the next round should be peacemaking, not war.

Low bars, high stakes

The bars are low – ‘the west’, led in this case by the UK, seemed to be happy with the winners of the coup, perhaps hoping for a renewed Zanu-PFPerfidious Albion (Treacherous England) could end its schizophrenic career in Zimbabwe with a whimper about the end of a liberal democratic dream. But the stakes are high for Zimbabweans: much higher than the reputation of a minor global power past its glory.

The people of Zimbabwe face a lot more than reputational damage: maybe the former colonial power will have a Plan B that helps more than hinders.

Zimbabwe Duo Find A Fortune In Their Backyards

by Karen Mwendera

Two 20-year-olds who dove into business after high school in Zimbabwe, turned bananas into a low-cost alternative option to wheat flour.

Where most youngsters would opt for a business degree before stepping into business, Ropafadzo Zimunya and Munashe Musarurwa did it the other way around.

In a small town named Mutare in Zimbabwe, just out of high school, the now 20-year-olds looked inwardly for inspiration, and found it in their backyards.

The co-founders of a company named Greenit Diversified Group, they make baking flour out of bananas. Such unconventional thinking came from need, and their research on alternative foods – most likely, the future of food in Africa.


Farmers collecting bananas to manufacture banana flour. Photo provided.

“I think alternative foods are the next big thing on the market because of the way Africa itself is going,” says Musarurwa, also the operations manager of Greenit.

The two finished high school in 2016 and were dabbling with some business ideas when they came across alternative products for bananas.

“My partner was like ‘there’s something called banana flour, have you ever heard of it’?” Zimunya, Greenit’s CEO, tells FORBES AFRICA.

“I was like no, ‘but let’s do it, let’s try it out’. And we have bananas in our backyard, so why not?’”

So the two harvested the green bananas, dried them and crushed them into powder, not sure if this was going to end up as a disastrous science lab experiment. Thankfully, it didn’t.

“It’s not something we invented, it was there traditionally. The thing is the traditional one does not outperform wheat flour,” says Zimunya.

The pair played around with different ingredients, and permutations and combinations until they came up with a breakthrough product that morphed into better flour.

Immediately, Zimunya wrote down a business plan. With their final product, they reached out to a local baker as prospective suppliers. “Am I seriously going to use banana flour to make cupcakes?” he asked them.

Eventually, the pair were able to convince him. The baker prepared a batch of cupcakes with their flour and they were a success.

“We were actually surprised at how well it came out, because I was sceptical at first,” says Zimunya.

They later advertised their product to other bakers, farmers, and the community.


The final product of banana flour created by Ropafadzo Zimunya and Munashe Musarurwa

“We were looking for millions, and in our dreams we thought it would happen in a day, but when we started going around telling people, they thought we were crazy!” says Zimunya.

Word got around in the streets of Mutare and that’s when the funding came in.

“We really tried to sell across the nation because that’s our aim, and it’s the most difficult thing to do if you are a Zimbabwean manufacturer,” says Zimunya.

In a country heavily reliant on imports on account of failing food production, Greenit had the opportunity to produce a low-cost alternative food option locally. They sold their first batches at $3 for 500 grams making it the cheapest alternative flour in Zimbabwe.

“We have now reached about 600 people in five months and made around $800,” says Zimunya.

One of their aims is to become wheat flour’s biggest competitors. But to do this, the boys were going to need a lot of goodwill – and financing.

Their first investment came from $5,000 which they won after applying for the Celebration Church Mutare Padare business forum last year.

This happened to be the same church the boys first met in and solidified their friendship.

Early this year, they won another $10,000 from the Youth Entrepreneurs Program financed by CBZ Bank in Zimbabwe.

In a country heavily reliant on imports on account of failing food production, Greenit had the opportunity to produce a low-cost alternative food option locally. They sold their first batches at $3 for 500 grams making it the cheapest alternative flour in Zimbabwe.

Despite Greenit’s infancy, the two admit they have been able to achieve a lot in a short time. Their products now retail in some supermarkets and small shops in Mutare.

Their priority though is to use the money to set up a factory to be able to keep up with the demand. The duo aim to even sell their products outside of Zimbabwe.

“Since then we have been able to produce two tonnes of the banana flour and have sold over 1,000 units since,” Musarurwa says.

But as with any business, they have had challenges, and some costly learnings along the way. Despite their eagerness and professionalism as business owners, they still face prejudice as young people.

“The most difficult challenge we face is that people don’t take us seriously at times,” says Musarurwa.

They are also more cautious when it comes to making promises or signing agreements, and have learned not to trust easily.

“Everything that you do has to be written down,” says Musarurwa. “No matter how small it is, if you want to do something with someone, put an agreement to that.”

Zimunya hopes to study business management while Musarurwa wants a marketing degree. They also plan to expand their production in the alternative food sectors, producing banana porridge for infants and adults, and diversifying to fertilizer production with banana peels.

They were also invited to attend the 10th African Union Private Sector Forum in Egypt early May. They want to expand their network beyond Zimbabwe as Africa is in need of more alternative food sources.

Zimunya says he won’t rest until he sees their names on FORBES AFRICA’s Under 30 list one day.

karenThis content was originally published on ForbesAfrica.com.

Karen Mwendera is a journalist at Forbes Africa and Forbes Woman Africa. She is also an ambassador and digital media strategist for MAPP Africa. She has a degree in journalism from the Pearson Institute.

Published courtesy of Unleash Africa 

African Development Bank launches first Electricity Regulatory Index for Africa

The Report, released on the sidelines of the 2018 Africa Energy Forum (AEF) in Mauritius, measures the level of development of regulatory frameworks in 15 African countries and examines their impact on the performance of their respective electricity sectors.


Though the majority of African countries have developed relatively robust institutional frameworks for the regulation of their electricity sectors, much work remains in strengthening regulatory independence, says the Electricity Regulatory Index for Africa (ERI) – a crucial new report by the African Development Bank.

ERI also identifies areas in which improvement is most needed in Cameroon, CÔte d’Ivoire, Gambia, Ghana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.

“The main goal with the ERI is to incite key stakeholders in the African power sector to address regulatory performance and the gaps identified in the study,” said Amadou Hott, Vice President, Power, Energy Climate and Green Growth Complex at the African Development Bank.

The ERI is expected to become a benchmarking tool that will track progress made by African countries as they align the regulatory frameworks governing their electricity sectors with international standards and best practices.

The African Forum for Utilities Regulators (AFUR) described the Index as a useful tool for improving electricity regulation and pledged to work with the Bank to sustain the initiative.

Debbie Roets, Executive Secretary of AFUR said: “We are glad that the African Development Bank has indicated that it will produce new, updated Index results on an annual basis, and will seek to encourage more countries to participate in subsequent editions. AFUR will provide the needed support.”

The Index pointed to how the past two decades had witnessed a transformation of the electricity market in Africa following the gradual opening, liberalization, and reform of national electricity markets.

It was observed that regulators have a fundamental role in attracting private investment into national energy and power assets. Investors seek transparency, predictability, and good governance in sectors in which they operate, all of which well-developed regulators are expected to provide.
Periodic evaluation of regulators as practiced in many developed countries is important as it enables early identification of problems or gaps so that corrective actions can be implemented as soon as possible.

“Significant progress has been made in each of the areas covered by the study. However, more efforts are required to facilitate the type of environment in which private sector actors would feel comfortable investing. The African Development Bank will work together with its partners in regional member countries to provide the support, advice and assistance required to align regulation in the energy sector to international best practice,” said Wale Shonibare, the Bank’s Director, Energy Financial Solutions, Policy and Regulation Department.

The Report noted: “On average, well developed electricity regulatory governance systems exist in all fifteen sample countries. However, there is room for improvement with respect to accountability and independence to align with international best practices often necessary to attract future investment into the sector.

“Although many sample countries had established the legal and institutional frameworks for electricity sector regulation, regulators are yet to build an adequate level of capacity and develop appropriate mechanisms to effectively carry out their mandates and make decisions under key aspects of regulatory substance.

“In spite of falling well short of international best practices, regulators in the sample countries have a moderately positive impact in the sector, especially when it comes to measures being instituted to promote energy access and enhance commercial quality of electricity to consumers; however on average, regulators faltered most with respect to instituting cost-reflective tariffs.”

Morgan Tsvangirai: the man who dared Zimbabweans to dream again

The Conversation



Morgan Tsvangirai was a thorn in the side of Robert Mugabe’s government. Reuters/Peter Andrews


One never forgets their first job. For me it was not the work experience that left an indelible impression, though it was appreciated. It was that one day at work when all seems to be ordinary and then mundane, routine tasks are disrupted for just a few minutes and everything changes.

It was a hot summer’s day, the typical Harare heat burning us up. Hope was on the horizon; the type that brings storm clouds on a clear day to usher in rain. I worked until 4pm in a popular grocery store located in the affluent suburb of Chisipite. Unannounced, a burly stout imposing figure approached the till with a broad smile and distinctive round cheeks.

It was Morgan Tsvangirai himself.

A man of the people

We all knew who he was. A seasoned trade unionist, that face most often featured on newspapers’ front pages. A thorn in the side of Robert Mugabe and his regime, Tsvangirai was the man with whom Zimbabwe’s working class most identified. Many times when a stay-away was called and we didn’t go to school, this smiling customer had been the chief architect. To some, he was seen as a messiah.

Others saw him as little more than a rabble rouser and accused him of being the root cause of Zimbabwe’s economic decline and political hostility.

On that day, he was clad in his party t-shirt and holding a basket full of groceries. All the attention in the shop was centred on him. But Tsvangirai was a man of the people, and shifted that focus back to those around him. He engaged in small talk, bemoaned the lack of rain – the earth was dusty and thirsty for a drink, he said.

Approached by two mothers with suckling infants, he expressed his desire that the Zimbabwean health system would improve so that no child would ever have to die of malnutrition or another preventable ailment again.

He teased a young man in a Zimbabwe football t-shirt. Zimbabwe, Tsvangirai said, would qualify for the next soccer world cup.

As a young man doing his first job during that long hot summer, I gained more than work experience that day. I got life experience from a man who was not only simple but humane. There was a dissonance, too. This couldn’t be the same man the state told us brought sanctions and troubles to a country once viewed as Africa’s breadbasket. He’d even been blamed for keeping the rain from falling.

His parting shot to us that afternoon was sobering, and arresting. It challenged all the stereotypes and falsehoods that had been circulated as facts. Walking out, unaccompanied by bodyguards and fresh from chats with the many ordinary Zimbabweans in the store, he said:

Don’t be afraid of the idea of change. A new Zimbabwe is upon us and we need you.

A unique power

That was Morgan Tsvangirai’s unique power. He made Zimbabweans excited about the idea of change. Our ability to dream had been quashed. But he wasn’t afraid of this idea of change – he even had the bruises to show for it.

It is a hope and a dream he never let go of. Frail in his last days and consumed by cancer, Tsvangirai saw some of that change begin to unfold. It’s sad that he will not be around to experience the next steps on Zimbabwe’s journey. But his ability to make us dream will live on,even beyond his own life.

His legacy, ideologies, and simplicity carry the nation of Zimbabwe forward.

First published by The Conversation

Mnangagwa and the military may mean more bad news for Zimbabwe


         Author:            Lecturer in Politics and International Relations, University of Leicester
Disclosure statement        James Hamill does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.                                  Partners: University of Leicester University of Leicester provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK.

The military has taken control of the national broadcaster, troops are in the streets and the president is being held in a secure environment. All military leave is cancelled and a senior general has addressed the nation. Yet the Zimbabwean military continues with the pretence that this is not a coup d’etat.

The obvious response to this is: if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then the chances are it’s a duck. And the sole reason the Zimbabwean military is not acknowledging this as a coup d’etat is to avoid triggering the country’s automatic suspension from the African Union and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Both bodies frown on coups.

A perfect storm formed ahead of these events and made military action predictable. The country had once again entered a steep economic decline (not that its “recovery” had been anything of note). A clear and reckless bid for power was being made by the so-called Generation 40 (G40) faction around Grace Mugabe in direct opposition to the Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the standard bearer for the so-called Lacoste faction.

This culminated in Mnangagwa’s dismissal by President Mugabe: a clear indication that Grace Mugabe was now calling the shots. It also served as a follow up to the 2015 Grace-engineered dismissal of another Vice President and rival, Joice Mujuru.

The coup means that Mugabe’s long and disastrous presidency is finally over. The only questions that remain are the precise details and mechanics of the deal which secures his departure.

Why the coup

Mnangagwa is a long time Zanu-PF stalwart and is clearly closely integrated with the military high command and the intelligence services. Both institutions are concerned that the succession is being arranged for a faction led by people with no liberation credentials but who have been skilled in manipulating Mugabe himself and in making him do their bidding. The G40 now appear to have overreached, perhaps believing that their proximity to the “old man” made them invincible.

This coup’s explicit purpose is twofold. First, it’s trying to definitively kill off Grace Mugabe’s ambitions to become president and to set in place a ruling dynasty akin to the Kims in North Korea. Second, it’s a bid to clear Mnangagwa’s path to power, first in Zanu-PF and then within the state itself (over the last three decades these have been virtually one and the same thing).

What we do not yet know is what counter force, if any, the G40 can bring to bear against the military. The calculation of the military hierarchy appears to be that Grace and company are paper tigers who will have few cards to play against such force majeure and who lack the popular appeal to bring angry and disillusioned masses out onto the streets.

Could this be the end of President Robert Mugabe’s 37 year reign? Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo

The coup has formally stripped away the façade that Zimbabwe is a constitutional state. This is clearly a militarised party-state where the military is a pivotal actor in the ruling party’s internal politics. It is not simply a neutral state agency subordinate to the civilian leadership. And the idea that this military intervention is an aberration – a departure from the constitutional norm – is misplaced.

Zimbabwe is a de facto military dictatorship. It serves as a guarantor of Zanu-PF rule rather than as a custodian of the constitution. It has helped Zanu-PF rig elections. And it was central to the state terror which was unleashed against the population to reverse Mugabe and Zanu-PF’s electoral defeat in 2008. The military has always been a key political actor. The only difference this time is that its intervention is designed to control events within Zanu-PF rather than to crush opposition to it.

But, a highly politicised military is a major impediment to the re-establishment of a democratic order in Zimbabwe. It has nothing to gain, politically or financially, from democratic rule given the lucrative networks of embezzlement and plunder it’s put in place over decades. Most recently it seized and siphoned off of the country’s diamond wealth for military officers and the party hierarchy.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo

This intervention is designed to secure the presidency for Mnangagwa. So it is hard to avert our eyes from the elephant –- or in this case the Crocodile –- in the room. Mnangagwa is the Mugabe henchman who helped enable the misrule and tyranny of the last 37 years. He was one of the principal architects of the Gukurahundi -– the genocidal attack on the Ndebele – in the early to mid-1980s which left at least 20 000 people dead.

He has also been instrumental in rigging elections and crushing all opposition to Zanu-PF rule, including the atrocities of 2008.

Expecting such a person to now make a deathbed conversion to the democracy, constitutional government and good governance he has spent an entire career liquidating is dangerous nonsense.

Dilemmas to come

Mnangagwa will soon have to confront a series of dilemmas. How can he put in place an administration which has the appearance of a national unity government, can secure international approval and the financial assistance required to help rebuild a shattered economy – but avoid ceding any meaningful power or control? Can this circle be squared?

The best hope for Zimbabweans is that the international community uses its leverage wisely and sets stringent conditions for such assistance: free elections closely monitored by an array of international organisations, the establishment of a new electoral commission, free access to the state media and the right of parties to campaign freely.

There should also be a role here for South Africa to restore its badly tarnished image as a champion of democracy in Africa. It has followed a malign path over the last two decades, facilitating Zanu-PF authoritarianism in the name of a threadbare and increasingly degenerate “liberation solidarity”.

Such a combination of pressures will severely restrict Mnangagwa’s room for manoeuvre. Anything short of that will deliver an outcome which is essentially Mugabeism without Mugabe.

A military coup is afoot in Zimbabwe. What’s next for the embattled nation?

The Conversation


President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace have become increasingly divisive figures in Zimbabwe. Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo

             Author:             David B. Moore Professor of Development Studies, University of Johannesburg
Disclosure        statement     
  David B. Moore does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Nobody is safe from the rages of Zimbabwe’s First Lady, “Dr. Amai” Grace Mugabe. There was the young South African model Grace lashed with extension cords. 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe’s longtime and usually trusted ally Emmerson Mnangagwa, was next in the firing line: he was sacked because his supporters allegedly booed her at a rally.

The consequences of her vengeance may have led to a coup headed by Zimbabwe’s army chief General Constantino Chiwenga, who is commonly perceived to be Mnangagwa’s protégé. But ex-freedom fighter Mnangagwa has his own presidential aspirations.

Mnangagwa has been exiled from the party in which he has served since he was a teenager. But he is not just skulking in the political wilderness. On arrival in South Africa he issued a statement calling those who wanted him out “minnows”. He promised to control his party “very soon” and urged his supporters to register to vote in the national elections next July.

As if to back Mnangagwa, on November 13 General Chiwenga announced that he and his officers could not allow the “counter-revolutionary infiltrators”, implied to be behind Grace Mugabe, to continue their purges.

Factions and purges

Chiwenga declared that the armed forces must ensure all party members attend the extraordinary Zanu-PF congress next month with “equal opportunity to exercise their democratic rights”. He flashed back through Zanu-PF’s history of factionalism, reminding his listeners that although the military “will not hesitate to step in” it has never “usurped power”. Chiwenga promised to defuse all the differences “amicably and in the ruling party’s closet”.

Although this airbrushed more than it revealed about the party’s rough patches when leadership vacuums appeared, the statement appeared more as a cautionary note than a clarion call to arms. It’s not often a coup is announced before it starts; but once in motion direction – and history – can change. Grace Mugabe may have unleashed a perfect storm and her own undoing.

Soldiers stand next to a tank on a road in Harare. Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo

All the “shenanigans” that have inspired the generals to consider a coup have set the stage for an extraordinary Zanu-PF congress this December instead of in the expected 2019: that is, before rather than after the July 2018 national elections.

This suggests some people were in a hurry to settle the succession issues for the president, who is now showing every one of his 93 years. Maybe Robert Mugabe won’t rule until he is 100-years-old. If not, and members of his family or party wanted to keep their dynasties alive, they had to work quickly lest some similarly inclined contenders are in their way.

These contenders include Mnangagwa and a slew of his “Lacoste” factionconsisting of war veterans and the odd financial liberal. The best-known of these is Patrick Chinamasa. This former finance minister tried to convince the world’s bankers he could pull Zimbabwe out of the fire. He was demoted to control cyberspace and then fired. Perhaps he may make a comeback in the wake of the semi-coup.

The pro-Grace faction includes the members of Generation 40, or “G-40”. Many are well over 40. But in Robert Mugabe’s shadow they appear young, as does the 52-year-old First Lady. Without a base in the liberation-war cohort, they resorted to working with the Mugabe couple: sometimes their ideology appears radical, espousing indigenous economics and more land to the tillers.

If the history of their best-known member – the current Minister of Higher Education Jonathan Moyo – is indicative, however, they are pragmatic; or less politely put, opportunist.

But with Grace Mugabe sans Robert, they would have to muster inordinate amounts of patience and manipulation to steer the sinking ship to the shores of stable statehood and incorporate yet younger generations who cut their political teeth as Robert Mugabe’s rule faltered.

Perfidious ‘saviours’

Yet the possible plan for the upcoming congress – to create a third vice-president – appears not to move far beyond the cold hands of the old. Phelekezela Mphoko would be pushed to third vice-president status. Grace would be the second vice-president.

The current defence minister, Sydney Sekeramayi would be first vice-president and so, next in line for the presidential palace. He is a quiet but no less tarnished member of the Zanu-PF old guard; especially when one remembers the massacre of thousands of Ndebele people during the Gukurahundi.

When performing the calculus necessary to rectify Zimbabwe’s graceless imbalances, remember that Mnangagwa was perhaps the key architect of the nearly genocidal Gukurahundi, now chronicled in archival detail in historian Stuart Doran’s Kingdom, Power, Glory: Mugabe, Zanu, and the Quest for Supremacy. Among the scores implicated therein are the British, condemned by Hazel Cameron, another meticulous archivist, as exercising “wilful blindness” during what Robert Mugabe has dismissed as a “moment of madness”.

Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that many are suspicious of Mnangagwa’s relationship with the UK. Many suspect he has been swimming with perfidious Albion for a very, very long time.

Those waters, in the shadow of Mugabe’s heritage, will take a few more generations of hard political work to clear. It hardly seems propitious that a coup, and the same generation that has ruled since 1980, starts it off.

First published by The Conversation

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