By Paidamoyo Muzulu
THE false dawn of a new era brought by the November 2017 coup is now a reality. The event happened four years ago and is slowly fading. Zimbabweans, including the coup plotters, let the event go without commemorations this week.
The coup in Zimbabwe was in slow motion. It happened over a number of days under disguise, but the military hand was quite visible.
Zimbabweans were sold and accepted the coup as a popular revolution against “tin pot” dictator the now late former President Robert Gabriel Mugabe, the country’s founding father. On November 17, 2017 the war veterans pulled the wool off the nation’s eyes. They organised a mother of all demonstrations and threatened Mugabe with a “Gaddafi treatment” if he did not resign.
What is a Gaddafi treatment?
This is an insurrection that toppled the late former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who was killed in a hole by a teenager after supposed revolutionaries with support from Western-allied partners had pushed him out of his official residence.
The “elated” Libyans paraded Gaddafi’s corpse in a public square, a humiliation which no leader can contemplate.
Many Zimbabweans joined the charade that had started with the military announcement by the now late Brigadier-General Sibusiso Moyo on national television. Moyo had announced the “situation has reached another level”, “Mugabe was safe” and the military wanted to deal with “criminals surrounding Mugabe”.
This sounded “revolutionary” to many in the opposition, civil society and academia. The coup was sanitised and it was labelled “a military-assisted transition”.
Most Zimbabweans were excited about the promise to deal decisively with corruption, a land audit and have a clean start for the so-called “Second Republic”.
Ministers and public officials in Zanu PF were not afraid to flaunt their wealth in public, despite that they were an oasis in a desert of poverty.
The economy was going down south, majority of citizens were living in abject poverty — no adequate meals, poor housing, low salaries, poor public transport, burst sewers and no running water. This was made worse by a currency that was losing value but at the same time inaccessible to the common man.
Patrick Chinamasa deflated the people’s hopes when he told the cheering crowds at Zimbabwe Grounds that this was an exclusive Zanu PF issue. Many still held hope that Emmerson Mnangagwa would see sense and the need for a government of national unity.
This hope too was dashed when the military took over from the barracks into Munhumutapa, confirming the perception it was a military coup.
Generals Constantino Chiwenga, Perrance Shiri and Moyo were at the centre of government. These are not simply men in military fatigues but also heroes of the liberation struggle that brought independence in 1980.
It is not far-fetched that Zimbabweans believed that the generals were to redirect the country to the ideals of the liberation struggle, particularly living by the ethos of the revered song — Nzira Dzamasoja.
The passage of time since November 2017 has proven to all and sundry that the dreams of the coup have turned into a nightmare.
The politicians and their children are still living large from the public purse and corruption. There has been no appetite to arrest and prosecute “criminals surrounding Mugabe”.
The so-called second republic by all standards has become an extension of the old regime. The Auditor-General’s reports are full of cases of abuse of public resources in ministries, local authorities and State-owned enterprises.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed how the elite feasts at the public trough.
Inflated invoices, undelivered but paid for goods and misappropriation of funds are endemic. However, like in the Mugabe era, no action has been taken against the culprits.
Mugabe was accused of centralising power. He was the all-powerful Executive. However, four years done the lane, Mnangagwa has consolidated power that he is now an emperor.
In four years, Mnangagwa has amended the 2013 Constitution twice. The two amendments brought in more than 30 changes to the governance charter and the unmistakable thing is all the changes consolidated power in the president.
The new Special Anti-Corruption Unit in the President’s Office, which operates parallel to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, has not proven why it needs to be there. Unfortunately, Zimbabweans may never know how much that unit has gobbled in public money because the Office of the President and Cabinet can never be audited by the Auditor-General,
The only bright spots in Mnangagwa’s government has been the completion of Mugabe projects and the national emergency roads rehabilitation programme is one of them.
Mnangagwa has a duty and responsibility to be accountable. He has to release a number of documents into the public realm if he is better than Mugabe. These reports include the Tendai Uchena Urban and Peri-Urban Land Commission report, the Charles Utete Land Audit Report and cause Finance minister Mthuli Ncube to table the national and sovereign debt audit, among others.
The President, in the spirit of transparency, should update the public what happened to the mega-deals that he announced soon after he assumed power.
After all is said and done, the generality of Zimbabweans are still struggling and their suffering needs to be ameliorated.
They need decent jobs, a stable currency, better housing, clean drinking water, adequate electricity, an efficient public transport system, universal primary healthcare, affordable and quality basic education and social security for the vulnerable.
The above are a dream that keeps being deferred, a dream that was pregnant with hope in 1980 and November 2017.
The false dawn cannot be repeated and above all the nation’s hopes should not be entrusted to personalities but systems and structures.
November 2017 was a squandered opportunity. The battle is how do you rekindle the spirit of hope again? We dream again.
- Paidamoyo Muzulu is a journalist based in Harare. He writes here in his personal capacity.