Republished with permission from Regional Rapport “We cling to our own point of view, as though everything depended on it. Yet our opinions have no permanence; like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away.” Chuang Tsu
93-year old former Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party leader and President Robert Mugabe finally met his maker, at least politically, after a nearly 40-year reign.
After foolishly sacking Vice President Emmanuel Mnangagwa to pass the Mugabe dynasty to his wife, “Gucci” Grace Mugabe, the Zimbabwe National National Army swiftly retaliated in what “seemed like a coup” at his posh Harare residence.
The military elite, many from the defunct Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA) that fought alongside both officials during the Rhodesian Bush War, seized control of the government.
Watching nervously from afar, African Union Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat meeped that the shocking events should be “resolved in a manner that promotes democracy and human rights, as well as the socio-economic development of Zimbabwe.”
Surprisingly, the military did just that. Nobody was injured and Mugabe was forcedto resign, and Mnangagwa was reappointed to office shortly afterwards.
Zimbabwe now has the real possibility of a political restructuring, following imminent purges to remove political deadwood, to clear the way for a rapid industrialisation of the country.
Mugabe actions violated his sacred contract with the nation’s military top brass—the backbone of Zimbabwean government—which has guaranteed his longevity until now.
Revisiting Niccolò Machiavelli’s “The Prince” he explains in Chapter XIV that,
[…] it is seen that when princes have thought more of ease than of arms they have lost their states. And the first cause of your losing it is to neglect this art; and what enables you to acquire a state is to be master of the art.
Going further, Machiavelli notes in Chapter XIX that rulers are,
[…] contemptible to be considered fickle, frivolous, effeminate, mean-spirited, irresolute […]
This is precisely what Mugabe’s leadership had become, as he depended too heavily on his military to retain power, whilst neglecting his ‘princely duties’. Conversely, Mnangagwa, known as “the Crocodile” for his formidable military expertise, fully kept the confidence of his armed forces.
In reality, Zimbabwe’s battle is not with ‘imperialists’, but with Mugabe’s own counterproductive policies, international sanctions regimes, massive hyperinflation, health crises, capital and power shortages, and its pariah reputation abroad.
On the surface, the country has longed to eradicate these problems, but has continuously vacillated between Chinese and Western financial support, and its pseudo-socialist foundations have now achieved the same results as the Former Yugoslavia, Brazil and Argentina.
Consequentially, Mugabe’s controversial 2000 ‘land reform’ policy (known as the ‘Third Chimurenga’) aggravated his relationship with Western benefactors.
[While] Mugabe wanted to ‘free’ Zimbabwe from its traditional Western partners, the country received substantial aid from them in the 1980s, including $417 million from the World Bank, $204 million from the US, and $156 million from the European Economic Community. In the early 2000s, most of Zimbabwe’s trade, investments and loans were with or came from its neighbours and the West.
After the US’ promulgation of the Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act (ZDERA) in December 2001, Zimbabwe reeled under tightened targeted sanctions, [which] were exacerbated by the prohibition of budgetary assistance by the [IMF] and the World Bank.
Therefore, Mugabe’s post-millennium career of anti-Western twaddling wholly contradict the primary source of his capital wealth prior to 2000.
The ZANU-PF’s Look East policy and 2013-2018 Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZIM-ASSET) programme were merely reactions to this painful transition from West to East, as the country capitalised on the 2000 Forum on Chinese-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC) to help eliminate the country’s Western debt and restructure its impoverished economy.
Another reason for Mugabe’s economic dithering is that Zimbabwe is strategically positioned amongst two Chinese allies within the SADC portion of the New Silk Road, quite similarly to Turkey as the Eurasian doorway to Europe; both are guilty of using this to their advantage.
In the last four years, [China] has provided more than half a billion dollars in direct aid for schools, clinics and transport infrastructure in a bid to stabilise a country that sits at a strategically vital point between [its] two largest investments in Africa – Angola and South Africa.
Certainly, the ZANU-PF’s history of double-dealing is not an isolated case, as it has capitalised on China’s belief in the supremacy of the peasantry over that of the USSR working class (proletariat), especially after losing Soviet backing to the rival ZAPU.
This has always been Mugabe’s original support base—the peasantry and military—as the proletarian base was under Soviet control until being merged into the ZANU party in 1987.
For ZANU, the China–USSR split presented an opportunity to maximise its gains in its struggle against ZAPU. The ZANU–ZAPU split coincided with the Sino–Soviet split, partially explaining why China and the Soviet Union were so invested in this proxy-like war in Zimbabwe.
The ZANU-PF party inherently rejects Marxist-Leninism and embraces Narodism, a movement based on the peasantry and their blind submission to heroic figures—precisely what Mugabe and Mnangagwa represent. The ZANU-PF use their legacy of ‘anti-colonialism’ and ‘heroic struggles’ as a superstructural mechanism to rule Zimbabwe, with very little material successes.
Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin explained in his essay “On Narodnism” that,
The revolution of 1905 finally revealed this social essence of Narodism, this class nature of it. The movement of the masses […] swept aside Narodnik, professedly socialist, phrase mongering like so much dust and revealed the core: a peasant (bourgeois) democratic movement with an immense, still unexhausted store of energy.
[…] “popular” socialism is a meaningless phrase serving to evade the question of which class or social stratum is fighting for socialismthroughout the world […] Class-conscious workers [must] ruthlessly ridicule would-be socialist phrases and not allow the only serious question, that of consistent democracy, to be hidden behind them.
Zimbabwe, through its land reform programme, focused its revolutionary struggle on race instead of class, developing the ZANU-PF party along ideological lines and not material; the fundamental difference between the ZANU and ZAPU.
Lenin clearly demonstrates the correct path to take in “From Narodism to Marxism”,
With the bourgeois peasantry against the survivals of serfdom, against the autocracy, the priests, and the landlords; with the urban proletariat against the bourgeoisie in general and against the bourgeois peasantry in particular—this is the only correct slogan for the rural proletarian […]
‘Anti-colonial’ parties such as the ZANU-PF (and to an extent, many African political parties) are fundamentally bourgeois at their cores because they have not addressed the question of consistent democracy, which is establishing a proletarian dictatorship to eliminate class strata, in addition to this financial dillydallying with Western and Eastern financial institutions.
The Rise of “The Crocodile”
In order to understand the nature of the November coup d’etat, one must look into the support China has poured into Zimbabwe, why this is significant, and why Mnangagwa was seen as the preferred successor to Mugabe.
Firstly, in 2008, political turmoil between the ruling ZANU-PF and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) parties erupted after Mugabe won a ‘landslide’ victory that year.
The Movement for Democratic Change has refused to recognize Mugabe’s overwhelming victory in a June 27 vote held after MDC candidate Morgan Tsvangirai pulled out, citing violence by ruling party militia […]
Following the chaos, both parties signed the 2008 Inter-party Agreement, brokered by then-South African President Thabo Mbeki and the United Nations, in order to stabilise the country and continue negotiations with China on the SADC and FOCAC.
After doing so, the premise was simple. Either the ZANU-PF party can lead the country’s macroeconomic initiatives, or the MDC will, prompting the party to revive Sino-Zimbabwean relations in 2011, which were previously cooled after Mugabe’s brutal 2008 electoral crackdown.
The London Telegraph continues, citing MDC spokesperson Nelson Chamisa,
It’s not a government-to-government relationship, but a Zanu PF-China relationship […] These relations have consequences considering Zanu PF is a sunset party and the sun shall set on its allies.”
Dr. Martyn Davies, China-Africa relations expert and CEO of Frontier Advisory seconded this,
It’s not in [China’s] interests to do some transaction which in two years or maybe even sooner would have to be restructured if there’s a change in Zimbabwe’s political arrangement […]
To prevent this ‘change’, an important part of Sino-Zimbabwean relations included rebuilding ZANU-PF’s coercive apparatus—the national military. SAIIA reports that since 2003,
The major arms sales include 12 jet fighters and 100 military vehicles valued at $240 million in 2004; six trainer/combat aircraft in 2005; six additional trainer/combat aircraft in 2006; and 20 000 AK-47 rifles, 21 000 pairs of handcuffs and 12–15 military trucks in 2011.
The PRC Embassy to Zimbabwe noted that, shortly after adopting the Look East policy, Sino-Zimbabwean trade skyrocketed, with Harare incurring a massive trade surplus with China.
“The trade volume between the two countries in 2002 was 191 million U.S. dollars. The export of China to Zimbabwe [totalled] 32 million U.S. dollars and import 159 million U.S. dollars,” it stated.
Following the 2003-2006 hyperinflation crisis, China threw the Mugabe administration a lifeline by increasing development projects and investment throughout Zimbabwe to sustain its economy.
Additionally, from 2015-2017, Chinese President Xi Jinping cancelled debts for Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and partially Angola and following the write-offs, Zimbabwe adopted the Chinese Yuan to its basket of currencies.
Zimbabwean Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa expressed that,
They [China] said they are cancelling our debts that are maturing this year and we are in the process of finalizing the debt instruments and calculating the debts […]
Contrary to public opinion, this was not under Mugabe’s orders, but VP Mnangagwa.
Mnangagwa, who received military training in China during a war for independence decades ago, proposed in 2015 to have the Chinese yuan as legal tender in inflation-prone Zimbabwe.
It continues, citing Shen Xiaolei, Chinese Acadamy of Social Sciences research fellow,
Mnangagwa has a more open and moderate approach in economic policies and is also a friend of China […] Mugabe’s receding power is just a matter of time, and sooner is better than later because it can help stabilize the domestic situation.
Wang Hongyi, research fellow on Sino-Africa ties continues,
[Mugabe’s] policy was too radical and Chinese companies there stood to suffer […] Mnangagwa is seen as a steady hand, and he will limit or even revoke the indigenization law.
In conclusion, the military coup was an existential concern for the ruling ZANU-PF party, and the new Emmanuel Mnangagwa administration plans to correct the mistakes of Mugabe’s dynasty. This will satisfy everyone, from the Chinese, to the Zimbabweans, to the new ZANU-PF party, which will undergo a severe but necessary transformation via purges.
As this transition period comes to pass, one must not forget the ominous words of the Zimbabwean Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA),
[There] is an unwritten understanding that there are no permanent friends or enemies, but permanent interests. Zimbabwe’s Foreign Policy therefore, strives to foster long-standing relationships of mutual co-operation and trust.
Those permanent interests have just been safeguarded. In dialectics, there is no permanence, and prominence is given to that which is developing and rising, not decaying and passing away.