The Foreign Service Journal - March 2018

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MARCH 2018 55 First, the head of the country’s defense forces “announces” the possibility of a coup two days before the actual event. Most of the coups that I am aware of were planned in secret, their targets only becoming aware when the tanks show up at the gate. Very sporting, and quintessentially Zimbabwean, of Chi- wenga and his collaborators to give fair warn- ing. Further, in most of the military takeovers I’ve seen up close, the deposed head of state is either sent into exile or flees (Sierra Leone), is arrested (Thailand) or is killed (South Korea and Vietnam). Robert Mugabe and his wife are placed under the “protection” of the military. But a coup by any other name is still a coup. To paraphrase Tendai Biti, the opposition politician and a former finance minis- ter: “If it waddles like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s a duck.” Call it “under protection” if you will, but it sounds like “house arrest” to me. The same thing goes for the military’s statement that their action was not a coup d’état. Tanks in the street when there’s no parade mean basically one thing. From that point, however, the military’s actions didn’t seem to come from the standard coup playbook. Coup leader Chiwenga met with Robert Mugabe in what looked like a cordial meeting based on news photos of the event. Along with Mugabe’s Catholic priest, Father Fidelis Mukonori, the coup leaders negotiated with the 93-year-old potentate, who had ruled the country continu- ously for 37 years, to get him to resign. Mugabe was allowed to communicate by phone with South African President Jacob Zuma; he was given access to the media; and he was even allowed to call a Cabinet meeting. The End of an Era The military had given Mugabe a deadline for his resignation, stating that if he did not do so, the case would go to parliament for impeachment proceedings. ZANU-PF filed a motion for impeachment, which was supported by the opposition Move- ment for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai. Mugabe dug in his heels, refusing to resign and insisting he was the legitimate president and should be allowed to serve until the July 2018 elections. But when he called for a Nov. 20 Cabinet meeting, and 17 of his Cabinet members chose instead to attend Parliament, where his impeachment was on the agenda, he finally relented, and his letter of resignation was delivered to the speaker of the Parliament. For nearly four decades, Mugabe hadmanipulated those around him, playing on the liberation hero ethos and, by not naming a successor, making it difficult for anyone to work against him. During my tenure as ambassador (2009-2012), the twomain contenders were Mujuru andMnangagwa, and whenever one seemed to be edging above the other in popularity, Mugabe would do something to restore equilibrium. That equilibriumwas destroyed when he firedMujuru and elevatedMnangagwa in 2014, at about the same time Grace was beginning tomake her own political moves. What role Mugabe played in her actions is a matter of speculation, but I believe it’s safe to say that bothMugabe and his wife overestimated his popu- larity with the senior members of his party and the military. The initial refusal to resign and the insistence that he be allowed to serve out his termwere classic Mugabe. Only he can say whether he seriously thought he had a chance of succeeding, or if he was just bluffing to see how far he could push things. But his Nov. 20 cabinet meeting that saw 17 of his cabinet ministers ignoring his summons has to have told him that he’d lost the hand, and that it was time to fold. The Crocodile Takes the Throne On Nov. 24 Emmerson D. Mnangagwa, known throughout the country as “the Crocodile,” was installed as the leader of ZANU-PF and interim president of Zimbabwe. A teenager dur- ing the liberation struggle, he served in intelligence, and after independence was justice minister and, later, defense minister. He has worked closely with Mugabe for decades and, while he lacks Mugabe’s charisma and popularity, is considered a ruthless and calculating person. No one disputes his intelligence and capability. Like his mentor, he knows how to say what key listeners want to hear. During his inauguration address, for example, Mnan- Ambassador Charles Ray receives the Human Rights Defender award from the Zimbabwe Organization for Youth in Politics, Dec. 28, 2011. COURTESYOFCHARLESRAY