Covering Zimbabwe - first lesson is get the names right and find good pundits

Some random thoughts on Zim coverage so far:

Well done Radio 4's Today - amazing mangling of Mnangagwa. Try to get it right, he might be the next President. Still why bother with these silly African names. Poor Journalism and why give  a London-based, uninformed  ZANU-PF stooge so much uninterrupted airtime? It;'s a shame they didn't get a proper expert on Zimbabwe instead of some writer (and former Cameron speechwriter) who has just been to Zimbabwe. Plenty of real specialists easily available in UK. Very simplistic and uninformative about what is really going on - the exercise of combined military and political power for control of the ruling party.  Not so much as coup as militarised politics within ZANU-PF.  Context and history is everything in this story

Sara Rich Dorman (Uni of Edinburgh and specialist on Zimbabwean politics sums it up like this but no one has got her on air:

Some thoughts on Zimbabwe in no particular order:

1. This is all about the party. This is a fight for control of the party. These guys cannot /will not think past the party right now.
2. I don't buy this 'the coup started in 2000' stuff (sorry Timothy Burke). yes, the military has inserted itself more and more into politics since then, and been called upon to do more and more 'political' work, but this is different.
3. It is typical of coups in African post-colonial states that they are (relatively) bloodless, and claim to be about restoring civilian rule. So, this fits a well-known pattern.
4. What is different, of course, is that it is the first such movement in the post-liberation southern african states, which have robust (if tattered) party structures.
5. Mnangagwa is not a 'safe pair of hands'. He has been responsible for some of the most brutal episodes in Zuimb abwe's history. He may restore stability in the short term, but I am not convinced he has the subtlelty to maintain it. And in that context, the military's incursion into politics sets a very worrying precedent.

My view:

Absolutely a fight between factions for control of the party. Grace may have the G40 and lots of young Zezuru but miscalculated that the Karanga, Manyika, Korekore etc, the war veterans (who forced Mugabe's hand back in the 90s  over land reform and remain influential) and the senior ranks of the military, who would prefer Mnangagwa as they know him. He  is hand in glove with the intelligence services. All of the groups are powerful within the party and the state. War veterans' threats to jump ship will have increased the old crocodile's (Mnangagwa) influence. Military are part of politics, but still within not above the party. Mnangagwa has an awful lot of blood on his hands but has been putting out feelers, I've heard, to Mujuru, Tsvangirai and Western diplomats - so,  many think he is a bastard but he's their bastard and they could work with him in the short-term. I could see him playing a clever game of posing as the unifier and peacemaker - with the background threat that there will be no peace without him. people should not forge that he has had many Mugabe opponents rubbed out through suspect car accidents and house fires. He is also - and he boasted this to me personally twice in interviews - that he killed the first white settler in the liberation war. he stabbed him to get his rifle. Not a man to turn your back on.

Some interesting purportedly ZANU-PF tweets about Mnangagwa being interim president before next year's elections. Places him perfectly to run for election with backing of those who will hold the ring (army, police, intelligence services) during any interim period.

if he does come out on top with army backing, the crocodile will not kill the king, He may laud him and say he has saved him from the Grace/G40 clique and then cynically ally himself with Mujuru, Tsvangirai and others. Mugabe could then be permitted a peaceful, respected retirement. Mnangagwa is a clever perator and will use his decades of being Mugabe's hitman to good effect.  Watch this space.  But as the song goes in Peter Pan - never smile at the crocodile. Grace thought should get power by hook or by crook - look what happened to Hook!

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZGkdcpTY1QI

 

Keith