Zim on politically shifting sands

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Dumisani Muleya

IT was interesting for us this week to get a security briefing from highly plugged-in sources on the current Zimbabwean political environment and attendant dynamics, focussing on the post-election period.

Editor’s Memo,Dumisani Muleya

The off-the-record briefing also looked into the power matrix featuring President Emmerson Mnangagwa and co-Vice-President retired General Constantino Chiwenga. It scrutinised the power configuration and current state of flux in politics.

Looking into the crystal ball, security experts say Zimbabwe has been going through structure-induced stability since the military coup which toppled former president Robert Mugabe last November and brought in Mnangagwa.

They fear Zimbabwe could follow the path of Egypt since the 1952 military coup. Then Egyptian military has been the repressive pillar of all the past regimes since the July 23 revolution.

The 1952 coup was led by first president Muhammad Naguib and his successor Gamal Abdel Nasser, and had far-reaching consequences for the country and the region.

The putsch, also known as the July 23 revolution, was led by the Free Officers Movement, a group of army officers loyal to Mohammed Naguib and Gamal Abdel Nasser who became the country’s first and second presidents respectively.
The coup was initially aimed at overthrowing King Farouk.

However, the movement had more political ambitions, and soon moved to abolish the constitutional monarchy and aristocracy of Egypt and Sudan, establish a republic, end British colonial occupation of the country, and secure the independence of Sudan (previously governed as an Anglo-Egyptian condominium).

After taking power through the military in 1952, two years later Nasser survived an attempt on his life by a Muslim Brotherhood member. Following that there was fierce repression and he put his ally in the coup (Naguib) under house and seized power.

In the aftermath of the second coup, Nasser’s fears of his own military heightened. It was not really surprising that Nasser became suspicious of his own military afterwards. They seized power together with Naguib and 24 months later he grabbed power for himself using the army.

Military experts say this may not necessarily happen in Zimbabwe, but the environment and conditions are there.
They say signs of internal strife and tensions over an unresolved leadership issue, power and self-aggrandisement are bubbling under the surface.

As first reported by the Zimbabwe Independent months back, political events currently unfolding in the country are pointing to an emerging deadly factional confrontation between Mnangagwa and Chiwenga, and their militarised factions.

The chaotic Zanu PF primaries, the defeat of Mnangagwa’s key allies in the general elections, the Bulawayo explosion mystery and the bloody polls aftermath are said to have become an inflammable cocktail fuelling tensions between the two leaders.

An Egyptian scenario can thus not be ruled out.

On January 25, 2011, Egypt saw the start of the protests that toppled long-time ruler Hosni Mubarak and supposedly ended six decades of military tutelage. Interestingly, Mubarak was Mugabe’s friend.

Three years on, however, there was not much to celebrate. Indeed, after a series of explosions that rocked Cairo then, less than a week after a referendum on yet another constitution billed as yet another new dawn, the promise of democracy looked further away than ever.

The wave of violence was no one-off. The attacks that began soon after the coup that toppled Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood government in July 2013 had steadily escalated in intensity, while unrest — often deadly — also continued to simmer in cities across the country.

Morsi’s short-lived presidency left much to be desired, as he remained far from popular. After his fall, the country, under the stewardship of then army chief and Defence minister General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, slid ever more certainly backwards.

El-Sisi later manoeuvred to become president and in April this year he secured a second term in office after winning 97% of the vote.

Zimbabwe might follow the same path as Egypt.

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