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PART OF THE ZIMBABWE STORY: LESSONS FOR THE REST OF AFRICA

BY MARGARET AKULIA

“Robert Mugabe has resigned as president of Zimbabwe” announced a News Article on Tuesday, November 21, 2017 following a very intense week of unpredictable events that began unfolding very publicly on November 13, 2017. By November 15, 2017 it had become unmistakable that there was a major spat between the Zimbabwe military and Robert Gabriel Mugabe, the President of Zimbabwe and only commander in chief Zimbabwe had known since the country attained Independence from Britain on Friday, April 18, 1980! All eyes were now on the Southern African country as a sudden but implicit coup d’état gained momentum. The week long events unfolding in Zimbabwe bore some resemblance to the coups Africa is notorious for. However, they did not have the typical component of “a sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power from a government”. It was obvious that a highly educated top echelon in Zimbabwe wanted to prove that the Zimbabwe military is an extremely disciplined cut above average professional African army!  Military armoured vehicles had been spotted on roads leading to Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe as top army officials continued to handle the apparent fall-out with their commander in chief with meticulous care. It seemed that the army wanted to prevent a veto of their intervention so it looked like they had predetermined that all their actions needed to comply with the constitution of Zimbabwe to a Tee.  


Finally! An African Army we can all be proud of I said out loud as I continued watching footage of events and a statement by the Zimbabwe army emphatically denying that there was a military coup in Zimbabwe.   

ZIMBABWE ARMY STATEMENT BY MAJOR GENERAL SIBUSISO MOYO 

The Zimbabwe army is an African first in modelling respect, discipline and restraint instead of “the law of the jungle” I continued as I became intensely interested in the end game because it would have profound implications for the rest of Africa. I was marvelling at how civilians went about their normal businesses as soldiers smiled and waved at them in an unprecedented display of cordiality. It was refreshing to watch a properly behaved African army going about the business of defending the supreme law of the land.  A disciplined African army guaranteeing the absolute safety of the very commander in chief that was at the centre of the contention was beautiful to behold. The Zimbabwe army’s skilful adherence to the country's constitution was a complete departure from the lawless and barbaric so-called national armies that abound in Africa! 


The statement from the Zimbabwe Defence Forces which was read by Major General Sibusiso Moyo brought to the forefront the spirit of Chimurenga, a Shona word that loosely translates to a fight or struggle in which everyone participates. Over time, Chimurenga was broadened to define Zimbabwe’s revolution, struggle for human rights, political dignity and social justice over a drawn-out period that finally led to the country’s independence from Britain under the leadership of the very Robert Gabriel Mugabe that was now at the centre of a dispute with some of his comrades. By the time Mugabe became president of Zimbabwe, the country had had two significant Chimurengas with the first one occurring between 1896 and 1897 and the second protracting from about 1966 to 1979. Chief British colonialist Cecil John Rhodes whose final resting place is present day Zimbabwe is reported to have cunningly set out to dupe the locals to create an ‘African Kingdom’ for Britain which included present day Zambia and Zimbabwe. He named this so-called ‘African Kingdom’ Rhodesia after himself!    

  The history of Cecil John Rhodes 

Zimbabwe’s second Chimurenga which was also known as the Rhodesian Bush War or the Zimbabwe War of Liberation was a guerrilla war that was fought between a minority Rhodesian government of descendants of white settlers, headed by Ian Douglas Smith and black nationalist movements of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) led by Robert Gabriel Mugabe and the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) led by Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo. Other nationalist groups participated in the second Chimurenga without taking up arms against the government of the day. These included groups led by Bishop Abel Tendekayi Muzorewa, Ndabaningi Sithole and Chief Jeremiah Sikireta Chirau. Born to British immigrants on April 8, 1919 in Selukwe, Southern Rhodesia which is present day Zimbabwe, Ian Douglas Smith served as Prime Minister of this southern part of Cecil John Rhodes so-called 'African Kingdom' from 1964 to 1979. As leader of the Rhodesian Front (RF), a right-wing political party that called for independence from Britain without an immediate shift to the requisite Black majority rule, Smith led a predominantly white government that unilaterally declared an internationally unrecognized independence from the United Kingdom in 1965.  It was the first unilateral break from the United Kingdom by one of its colonies. Consequently, the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and the United Nations all deemed Rhodesia's Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) illegal.    
 

As the second Chimurenga lengthened, Ian Douglas Smith negotiated and signed an agreement dubbed the Internal Settlement with the non-combative African nationalist leaders on March 3, 1978. This agreement led to the creation of an interim government in which Africans were included for the first time in Rhodesia. Zimbabwe which had been called Rhodesia until that agreement became known as Zimbabwe Rhodesia. An election was held in April 1979 which brought Bishop Abel Tendekayi Muzorewa to power. However, because the Internal Settlement was not approved internationally and Rhodesia Zimbabwe was still unrecognized as an independent country, no country acknowledged the election of April 1979! Moreover the black nationalist warring movements of ZANU led by Robert Gabriel Mugabe and ZAPU led by Joshua Mqabuko Nyongolo Nkomo were excluded from Smith's interim government. Meanwhile, Smith's government whose seat was based in Salisbury which is present day Harare continued war against the black nationalist movements led by Nkomo and Mugabe. The very Mugabe that was now in a public wrangle with some of the battle hardened veterans who fought in the second Chimurenga had emerged as a hero for the masses of Zimbabwe even though the government of Ian Douglas Smith referred to him and Nkomo as terrorists. The adage “one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter” couldn’t have played itself out with more clarity.  The second Chimurenga ended when an agreement dubbed the Lancaster House Agreement was signed at Lancaster House in the United Kingdom on December 21, 1979. This agreement allowed for the creation and recognition of the Republic of Zimbabwe. It included the terms of an Independence Constitution and the holding of elections under British authority. The agreement would enable Zimbabwe Rhodesia to proceed to lawful and internationally recognized independence, with the parties settling their differences by political means and not the barrel of the gun.   

  Rhodesia 1976 

Zimbabwe's Liberation A Short And Accurate History 

HOW THE BRITISH STOLE ZIMBABWE 

Zimbabwe - Goodbye Rhodesia - 1979  

General elections were held in February 1980 to elect a government which would govern the country after it was granted independence as Zimbabwe in accordance with the Lancaster House Agreement. The result was a victory for Robert Gabriel Mugabe's Zimbabwe African National Union which won 57 of the 100 seats. Owing to this majority win in a free and fair election, democracy triumphed and Mugabe became the first Prime Minister of Zimbabwe when the country formally known as Zimbabwe Rhodesia and Southern Rhodesia under the British Empire was granted official independence from Britain on Friday April 18, 1980.   

Robert Mugabe's 1980 victory in Zimbabwe - Newsnight Archives (1980) 

RR8017A ZIMBABWE INDEPENDENCE AT LAST 

This is the last Chimurenga in Zimbabwe, I declared as I continued watching events develop in Zimbabwe like everyone else around the world who wished Zimbabwe the absolute best. My assertion was a verbal expression of elated hope that Zimbabwe will become a model for the rest of Africa when the dust of the week’s events settles and a better way forward is mapped by both the country’s leaders and its citizens! I was very optimistic that the Zimbabwe story has enough lessons ingrained in it for the rest of Africa to garner. I was convinced that through the story and unimpeachable continent-wide Chimurengas, Africa can rise above the never-ending degeneration at long last! Chimurenga, the Shona word that can be interpreted to mean everyone needed to participate in a fight, struggle or revolution for human rights, political dignity and social justice was being personified before our very eyes as well-attended, exuberant and super peaceful public demonstrations continued to lend legitimacy to the intervention by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces. Under the constitution, it was the masses of Zimbabwe that could legally terminate the tenure of a sitting President and not the army. Consequently, a well educated and fully informed Zimbabwe Defence Force understood that the army needed a nod from the masses of Zimbabwe for their intervention to transition more smoothly to the next level in a legal process mandated by the constitution of Zimbabwe.  The masses obliged with jubilation and a re-ignition of the true spirit of Chimurenga! The people’s peaceful demonstrations organized in Harare and all major towns in the country beginning on Saturday, November 18, 2017 to support the actions of the army spoke loud and clear. They became a legally binding demand for the commander in chief of Zimbabwe to step down or face the full wrath of the law through impeachment.   

It was obvious that Zimbabweans expected a complete reversal of their country’s extreme retrogression to Rhodesian times and this could only be accomplished through a true Chimurenga, not a distorted version. Something had gone terribly wrong between the euphoria of Zimbabwe’s Independence and the day Robert Gabriel Mugabe resigned as President of Zimbabwe on November 21, 2017.  Something unplanned had obviously occurred throughout the 37 years following the official end to the second Chimurenga and the big win for the people of Zimbabwe when Robert Gabriel Mugabe took over the oars after being democratically elected Prime Minister.  However, there is still a lot of hope for the country to metamorphose into the beautiful multi-coloured butterfly the masses of Zimbabwe fought for during the second Chimurenga.  Instead of turning into an elegant butterfly, Zimbabwe experienced arrested development and it degenerated into an ugly caterpillar that continued crawling in dirt!   


Zimbabweans can collectively fix their country with the correct Chimurenga, I dialogued as I browsed through a quick chronology of the week’s events and became fixated on the inauguration speech by Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, the new President of Zimbabwe. 


Updates of events evolving in Zimbabwe by various news outlets had been splashed everywhere. Although there were reports of arrests by the Zimbabwe military and alleged ill-treatment of some of the individuals declared to be the criminals that were responsible for the army’s intervention, a publicly disciplined Zimbabwe Defence Force had continued to manage the turning point in Zimbabwe’s 37 years of existence as an independent African country with distinguished protocol. In other words, publicly, everything appeared very peaceful and the Zimbabwe military continued to display exceptional professionalism. The army never broke its promise to defend the country’s constitution and protect the very commander in chief that was at the centre of the quandary. By Wednesday afternoon November 15, 2017, the roadblocks around key government buildings in Harare had been removed. Armoured vehicles were off the streets and there was no longer extra security in the Borrowdale suburb, where most senior officials had their private homes. This had signalled the return to normalcy promised by Major General Sibusiso Moyo in his statement to placate the public. It supported a fair guess that most of the key alleged criminals responsible for the country’s degradation had been brought to book. Although there was less overall traffic in the city and armoured vehicles remained at key locations in the capital city Harare, on Thursday November 16, 2017, ordinary citizens continued their normal activities as if nothing out of the ordinary was occurring in Zimbabwe. This continued to speak volumes about the effectiveness of using a legal option backed by the threat of force to recover a people’s ruined aspiration. 


The fact that President Mugabe presided at a graduation ceremony at Zimbabwe Open University in Harare on Friday, November 17, 2017 while the tacit coup d’état was still in motion affirmed the high regard the Zimbabwe National Army had for the country’s constitution.   



Please click on the link to view   "Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, center, arrives to preside over a student graduation ceremony at Zimbabwe Open University on the outskirts of Harare".  





A lot more activities accompanied the week long events that unfolded in Zimbabwe from Monday, November 13, 2017 to Tuesday, November 21, 2017 when Robert Gabriel Mugabe's resignation was formally announced. However, the most notable were the strict adherence to the country’s constitution, the orderly conduct of the Zimbabwe army, the orderly conduct of the citizens of Zimbabwe and the voluntary resignation of Robert Gabriel Mugabe as President of Zimbabwe. 


The intervention of the Zimbabwe military is reported to have been impelled by a tiff in Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party that occurred between the current President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa when he was still First Vice-President and the Former First Lady Grace Mugabe and their respective supporters over who would succeed 93 year old Robert Gabriel Mugabe as President of Zimbabwe. The tension is reported to have culminated in the firing of Mnangagwa on November 6, 2017 by President Mugabe. Mnangagwa is reported to have fled to Mozambique on November 8, 2017 and then South Africa to escape "incessant threats" against his family. His firing was allegedly instigated by the Former First Lady Grace Mugabe to pave the way for her appointment as Vice President in place of Mnangagwa and eventual or quite probably immediate ascension to the presidency. This alleged manoeuvre by Mrs. Mugabe is reported to have incited the swift events that ended Robert Gabriel Mugabe’s own presidency and ushered in the presidency of his former vice President Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa. 


CONTINUED BELOW..........

IS ZIMBABWE'S ROBERT MUGABE A HERO OR VILLAIN?

Stay tuned as we bring you thoughts and reflections. 

A NEW BEGINNING & CONVERSATIONS WITH VETERANS OF CHIMURENGA

Sworn in as interim president on November 24, 2017 to serve out the remainder of Mugabe's term in office, President Mnangagwa has promised a new dawn and beginning for Zimbabwe. The swearing in was conducted at Harare's National Sports Stadium in a setting similar to the one at Rufaro Stadium where corresponding celebrations occurred during Zimbabwe’s Independence Day on Friday April 18, 1980.  On that joyous occasion,  Zimbabweans from all walks of life ululated in anticipation of all the things demanded for during the second Chimurenga.  On the day Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa became President of Zimbabwe, it was  déjàvu all over again as Zimbabweans came full circle with a new leader and displayed the same sentiments they expressed in 1980 when Robert Gabriel Mugabe won by a landslide. It was obvious that Zimbabweans and well wishers everywhere celebrated Zimbabwe’s new dawn. In a classy demonstration of loyalty to Chimurenga, President Mnangagwa made a very patriotic speech in which he paid homage to Robert Gabriel Mugabe the hero of the second Chimurenga.  


Now at a crossroads with a new President, the Zimbabwe story presents countless lessons for Zimbabweans and other Africans. Well wishers around the world, citizens of Zimbabwe and other African countries will do well to reflect on a long list of questions related to the story.  This is because whatever went down in Zimbabwe mirrors exactly what has gone down or is still going down in a number of African countries. A transposition of the name Zimbabwe with the names of a number of African countries provides fodder and a great place to begin fixing Africa’s deeply rooted pathological tendency to self destruct. The long list of questions relating to Zimbabwe which many African countries have lived experiences with include but they are not limited to a) What went wrong between Friday April 18, 1980 when Zimbabwe attained independence from Britain after winning the second Chimurenga by vote and Tuesday, November 21, 2017 when Mugabe’s resignation was formally announced? b) What is required in Zimbabwe now for the country to reverse the exact same abuses that incited the second Chimurenga? c) What will the new president and/or subsequent presidents do to placate the grievances that were articulated throughout the second Chimurenga?  d) What is needed in Zimbabwe for it to become a model for the rest of Africa after coming full circle on November 24, 2017?  e) Will the Zimbabwe army continue being disciplined, setting itself apart and putting to shame detractors who continue to hiss that their stage-managed “U Turn” from brutalizing Zimbabweans opposed to Mugabe and Mnangagwa’s ZANU-PF party was only until President Mnangagwa was sworn in as a replacement for Mugabe? f) What other lessons are ingrained in the Zimbabwe story including the first Chimurenga, the second Chimurenga, the presidency of Robert Gabriel Mugabe and the series of events that brought about the rapid end to his presidency? g) What is needed to map a new way forward under President Mnangagwa that will ensure that the object of Chimurenga is never squandered again? h) What happened to turn a very confident and compassionate revolutionary Robert Gabriel Mugabe into an impeachable president? i)  What happened to make the revolutionaries who set out to deliver a land flowing with milk and honey like the Biblical promised land to the people of Zimbabwe lose sight of their aspiration? 


"Robert Mugabe's birthday made public holiday” I read another of several captions while continuing to marvel at Zimbabwe's unwavering commitment to guarantee Robert Gabriel Mugabe's safety and grant he and his wife Grace Mugabe immunity from prosecution. It is reported that on November 23, 2017, a day before Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa was sworn in as the new president of Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe army agreed to grant Mugabe and his wife immunity from prosecution. In my humble opinion, this decision by the Zimbabwe Defence Forces propels the force to an even higher level because of Africa’s ill famed propensity to lynch former presidents along with their innocent family members and tribe mates.  It is widely known and documented that despite the events that led to his resignation, Robert Gabriel Mugabe did contribute quite substantially to the founding of Zimbabwe. He chaired the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) from 1975 to 1980 and led its successor political party the ZANU – Patriotic Front (ZANU–PF) from 1980 to 2017. 


Born to a poor Shona family, he Mugabe rose to the pinnacle of power in Zimbabwe following an education at Kutama College and the prestigious University of Fort Hare. He worked as a school teacher in Southern Rhodesia (present day Zimbabwe), Northern Rhodesia (present day Zambia) and Ghana before leading the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) from 1975 to 1980 and becoming Prime Minister of Zimbabwe. Mugabe was the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe from 1980 to 1987 and its President from 1987 to 2017 after the office of Prime Minister was abolished in 1987, restored as a result of the 2008-2009 political negotiations but abolished again following the 2013 constitutional referendum.   

   

I have confidence in Robert Gabriel Mugabe’s ability to reflect about his life in true penitence, pass along lessons he learned during his life and lead the other veterans in retelling the actual story of Chimurenga for preservation and posterity. As a repentant statesman and elder, Mugabe can still utilize the articulate skills and voice that won him the status of hero to preserve and give life to the great history of Zimbabwe. In other words, Mugabe’s legacy can still be a Zimbabwe that respects the country’s constitution, a country where all the citizens realize the objects of the two Chimurengas to the fullest extent and a people that become role models for the rest of Africa because through the revitalized spirit of true Chimurenga, the disillusionment of the broken promises will morph into fully realized dreams for Zimbabweans as they enjoy a prosperous economy, full democracy,  inalienable human rights, freedom of speech, political dignity and social justice.    


Well Done Zimbabwe! In a mere two weeks, you were able to demonstrate that Africans are quite capable of amicable and orderly resolution of conflict without resorting to jungle law. You proved that constitutional law and not jungle law can reign supreme and usher in a new beginning and a new dawn. You showed that the masses of Africa can speak loud and clear through an orderly legal process. You proved that Africa is capable of raising armies that are professional and well behaved even if it means instituting parallel armies in countries where there is a total breakdown in law and order. Countries where anarchic, homicidal rag tag so-called national armies run amok, brutalize defenceless civilians and habitually mete out “the law of the jungle”  in the most horrific forms which is personified by “superiority of brute force, self-interest, everyone is for themselves, anything goes, only the strongest and fittest survive, kill or be killed, dog eat dog, eat or be eaten”! 

      

May the spirit of Chimurenga the Shona word that recognizes everyone's contribution reign supreme because you have been given a new leash on life and the new and subsequent governments are able to ensure that everyone participates in rebuilding the country. Don’t blow this second chance!! For all the other Africans, replace Zimbabwe with your own African country and if the story is the same, Zimbabwe has proven that there is hope. If it is full of shame, do something to fix it!    


WILL ZIMBABWE BECOME A ROLE MODEL FOR AFRICA LONG AFTER ROBERT MUGABE AND HIS REPLACEMENT  EMMERSON MNANGAGWA?


Stay tuned as we bring you thoughts and reflections.