When the news broke that the great Robert Mugabe had finally bowed to pressure and resigned from power, it cemented a new worrying perspective in the pages of African politics. That the military could carry out a bloodless “coup” and lay a foundation for political machinations of great impact has now become accepted as a normal part of African politics.
This brings to mind other problems. A revolutionary military which can at any moment wrestle power from the popularly elected and legitimate government basing on any notions whatsoever is a danger to democracy. Whatever the perceived benefits of such a move may be, I would not want to see the government I voted into power being shattered simply because the military did not agree with me.
The forcing of Robert Mugabe to resign was bound to succeed. The actions of the military put the people’s leader in shackles, arrested his cabinet, detained his family, and threatened his life. Those who were supposed to serve the people turned against the people’s leader. Any man in such a predicament, facing the brunt of the betrayal of democracy would have no option but to resign. Though the coup was bloodless, it came at a very high price.
A whole Zimbabwean population was relieved of their inherent power to vote for their leader. The supposedly sovereign power of the Zimbabwean people was without legal popular consent subjected to a despicable auction and sold to a few generals who had appointed themselves the prosecutor, judge and jury of the Zimbabwean people. The political landscape was destabilised just to strengthen one faction of elites over others in which the people’s voice was suppressed and ignored.
Thirty seven years after colonialism, over the blood of millions of patriots given for democracy, over the Constitution of Zimbabwe, over the peace and security of Zimbabwe, some few people used the country’s military to push out the commander in chief, irreparably destroying the integrity of democracy in solving political dilemmas. In a country where there are regular elections that are hotly contested and that are declared free and fair by international observers, the actions of the military should have been vehemently condemned.
The reason that was given for the coup was that the military “just” wanted to root out the dangerous criminals surrounding the President. This reason is so ignominious that, if not for the fear of the guns, it would have been rejected by all. I for one think that the job of rooting out criminals is the constitutional mandate of the judiciary, which alone has the power of naming and punishing the criminals. How do you arrest the Commander in Chief and then claim that he is your Commander in Chief? Should we believe that Comrade Robert Mugabe commanded his own arrest and sanctioned the actions of the military? That would simply be ridiculous!
Then why has the coup found acceptance both in Zimbabwe and internationally? Why has it not been challenged and firmly condemned by the great democracies of the world, like the United States of America and Europe? Why has it been given a stamp of approval by international media channels like the BBC? For the simple reason that it has done what normal democracy had failed to do. It has rid them of the enigmatic Robert Mugabe, possibly with all his anti-white policies. To them, the end justifies the means, whatever the damage to the sanctity of democracy.
The idea that a leader can use the existing legal constitution and secure popular mandate to rule for a long time has been made so toxic that even coups are tolerated if they effect a change of guard.
Meanwhile, the fate of the Zimbabwe democracy is unknown. The repercussions of this bloodless coup, those that have been reported by the media channels, have made me realise the shallowness and sad frailty of African democracy. There is no guarantee whatsoever, that the people of Zimbabwe will see a brighter tomorrow because of and through this overthrow of democracy. The shockwaves of what has happened in Zimbabwe will echo around the continent for time immemorial. Let us hope that the sapling that is African democracy will not wither but will eventually grow into a strong, unshakable tree.