Mugabe saga: Is the military the solution?


The tug-of-war between the Zimbabwean military and President Robert Mugabe has been celebrated across continents. But as a human rights defender, I don’t support military governments, and I will not support a military government in any country including Zimbabwe.

By Kapya Kaoma

Harare Mambo Band’s song, Mbuya Nehanda provides the rationale for the military takeover: “If you want self-rule, pick up the gun and rule,” the song argues.

Under Mugabe, this song is part of the Zanu PF revolution, the very revolution Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Constantino Chiwenga seeks to perpetuate.

I personally opposed Mugabe’s brutality between 1998 and 2001, long before many Zimbabwean clergy did so. I was harassed, put under house arrest and finger-printed by Mugabe’s infamous Central Intelligence Organisation, and later forced out of Zimbabwe. I also witnessed people’s backsides sliced like bread by the military.

Yet, I would not endorse taking Mugabe out with a bullet. The truth is, without the military, dictatorship falls. Mugabe would have been replaced many years ago if Chiwenga and his colleagues did not intimidate the electorate or rig the elections in his favour!

It is clear the military “stepped in” because Mugabe expelled one of Chiwenga’s partners — it has nothing to do with the suffering of Zimbabweans. I fully understand and sympathise with the untold and dehumanising suffering Zimbabweans have endured at the hands of the military-sanctioned dictatorship.

The collapse of the economy and the health care system, the chaotic land distribution programme and its effect on food security; the untold levels of unemployment and extreme poverty turned the once admired nation into a ghetto. With military help, Mugabe grabbed farms, killed opposition supporters and exiled more than six million people. With military help, Mugabe rigged elections. This explains the excitement his downfall brings.

It seems that Africa and the world have developed amnesia on African military governments. In 2000, General Paul Kagame took power in Rwanda. He was a highly celebrated war hero by Westerners and Africans alike following the genocide. Today, he is poised to be in power until 2036. To many Rwandans, President Paul Kagame is the late Ugandan President Idi Amin incarnate — extrajudicial killings, corruption, rampant human rights abuses, ethnic persecution, and nepotism characterise Kagame’s devilish regime. As for independent journalists, they rot in prison.

Yet, Ugandans celebrated General Idi Amini when he forcibly took over power in 1971 — but only for a short period. The very people, who danced as Amini paraded and killed his opponents, are the very ones who became victims of his brutal rule. Initially, the West supported Amin, and he became the very devil they created. We all know how it ended — the Ugandan President for life died in exile.

In 1986, General Yoweri Kaguta Museveni forcibly took over power. He was celebrated and admired by the West, but his rule has been characterised with corruption, rampant human rights abuses, political persecution, and nepotism. Ugandans want him gone like yesterday, but he is now the election-rigging general — ask any Ugandan.

In 1997, General Laurent Kabila was celebrated as a revolutionary leader after he overthrew another Congolese dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko Koko Ngbendu Wa Za Banga, who forcibly came to power in 1965. A beloved of the West, Mobutu was a vicious lion to his people. He promised to introduce democracy — but ruined his mineral-rich nation and killed

As for Kabila, he renamed the nation the Democratic Republic of Congo — but ruled as a tyrant. After his assassination in 2001, his son, 28-year-old General Joseph Kabila took over power — he is still the president of the DRC. But democratic elections must wait, while ordinary people continue to die like grasshoppers.

I can go on and on, but the point is clear — the solution to Zimbabwe is not the military but democracy and the rule of law. Mugabe’s brutal rule was sustained by his military generals, among them, Chiwenga. Since independence, Zimbabwe has been a police state — Mugabe and his generals have had it all — they have killed at will.

The military solution will only disempower the country to forge its own democratic future. The installation of fired Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa as president will only extend the dictatorship. Mnangagwa may be loved by the military, but he could have been responsible for Gukurahundi killings “under Mugabe’s explicit orders”.

It is time we realised that dictatorship rides on the military, while democracy rides on the people. It is time Zimbabwe understood the power of the ballot over the bullet. As long as bullets are glorified over ballots, Zimbabwe will remain a dictatorship.


  1. Kapya Kaoma urimbwa yemunhu.What solution do you then have for this country? We have voted since 1980 without this change and you want to spoil it because of your stupid historical analysis whose application in Zimbabwe does not hold?We want change.Whether Mnangagwa is going to be dictator even worse than Mugabe that’s a question for another day not today!Go hang mhani. Your father Matibili is a goner today you moron!

  2. you know zero kaoma tisiye timbofarawo we are tired of the noise of the lunatic first lady , change is better, do not prophesy evil God is on our side.

  3. There is an underlying, deeper truth to this piece: you cannot really free people; they must free themselves. This applies to politics as it does to matters spiritual. In Zimbabwe’s case, there is today, a small window of opportunity for the nation to convert this end-stage of a factional war into something far greater. But we the people have to see it, recognize it and seize it. The onus remains on us, we the people. So far we seem mostly caught in the euphoria of “being freed”.

  4. It truly is a sad day in Zimbabwe to see even the Human Rights bodies here applauding a military coup. People quickly forget that these same military guys are the ones who put us in this mess by propping up a dictator for 37 years. They are not fighting to liberate the ordinary person, but it is all about ensuring that they oppress people forever. ZANU’s congress is only a month away, why didn’t they wait for it If they meant to give the G-40 a showdown? ZImbabweans are going to live to regret this for the rest of their lives. We can kiss our aspirations for a democratic country goodbye.

  5. If the military was sincere in defending the povo as they would like us to believe they would have not tampered with the will of the people in 2008. The opposition namely Tswangirayi was denied the opportunity to rule by the very same military.
    The military has done this so as to impose their own dictator whom they will handle like they were doing to MUGABE and that person is ED the crocodile. Zimbabweans should brace themselves for command rule and after ED the current General will takeover and the chieftainship will continue whereby leadership is given on liberation credentials.

  6. pliz shut up;don’t criticise the army;they hv liberated the people.lets only wait for their later as they finish their job;then we see if they will turn into other oppressors.If Munangagwa takes over lets only see if he will b like Mugabe & Grace & then call him names.Tsvangirai is another dictator in waiting,remember he changed the constitution in order to remove limits to his who is holy & what will stop Tsvangirai to change the constitution when he comes to power

  7. Prophet of doom! We can’t be decoyed into your cheap unilateral argument. You are a product of what you believe and we will not be cowed again into the Mugabe syndrome that you are remotely advancing, Zimbos are ready to ‘invest’ on the brighter side of the ongoing operation. We have already crossed river ‘Jordan’ on our way to the peomised land as you stagnate with Pharaoh the monarch in ‘Egypt’.

  8. Well put Mr Kapya. I cant agree more. I have been waiting for the road-map as an alternative to Cmrd RG Mugabe’s leadership, in vain. A gun/bullet and democracy NEVER meet.

  9. You are preaching nonsense as zimbabweans what we want a of now is change wether we create another dictator only time will tell

  10. Surely the world should know this.So far the Zim coup has been so peaceful, no looting, no damage to property, no burning down of infrastructure all due to an educated nation.I personally admire Zimbabweans for making calcutions before doing anything. On the effects of the coup, i agree totally that we are just putting a seal and waving good bye to democracy.Its not an individual who needs to removed but the system. As for people of Midlands and Matabeleland…bad news still.Its a miracle how they have survived for these 37years..its the LOVE and mercies of God only.survivng for so long without a ruler!!Its really bad news because noone from Mashonaland will ever love and appreciate you…let alone do anything good for them.Facrs are stubnon..go check all there is in Matabeleland was left by Whites way back in the ’70s. Say i am lying. Raw DACTS!!

  11. Comment…tired of the whole Zanu terror machinery .wish they seize to exist all of them Chiwenga and ED most included.we are just jumping from the frying pan into the forewarn is to you really think you can fool me telling me Zanus need free and fair internationally monitored elections.if u are Zanu please go to hell. we dont need you in zim ,whether Lacoste or G40. u all better devil.kungobva kumuroyi anoroya musoro going to muroyi anoroya mudumbu.

  12. Comment… l dont think there is a freedom which can be said it is given unless it is spiritual, a well put article yes we are tired and just like the author have been abused by Mugabe, But the military way is and will never be a democratic rule

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