Zimbabweans anxious as army takes charge

HARARE - Zimbabweans countrywide were anxious yesterday after the military usurped civilian control of the country.

The move by the army escalated the political crisis in the country, which had been tense since the unceremonious sacking of vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa by 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe a week ago.

While the situation was generally calm in Harare’s central business district (CBD), with most people going about their usual business, social media was abuzz as anxious Zimbabweans sought updates on the situation.

Armoured military vehicles were also patrolling Harare’s CBD, while some were parked at the Parliament Building.

Anxiety also gripped the eastern border city of Mutare, despite business going on as usual amid a tense atmosphere.

Although there was no visible presence of either the police or army in the eastern border city or its suburbs, there were military check points along roads leading into the city and along Beira Road, with the Forbes Border Post reportedly under heavy monitoring.

There were no police roadblocks in Mutare’s CBD, although soldiers manned security checks at the entry and exit points of the city.

No cases of harassment were recorded, with the general public appearing to be celebrating the development.

Informal traders, particularly vendors, were on the city’s streets, as usual.

Bank queues were unusually short as people seemed to have heeded the call by army to avoid “unnecessary movements” unless there are work commitments or urgent business.

Though anxious, most Mutare residents expressed mixed feelings about the stunning development.

“I think Zimbabweans are an excitable lot. Yes, they have been frustrated by Mugabe’s rule and the threat of a family dynasty but this to me is a step backwards,” said a civic activist who preferred anonymity.

A vendor who again declined to be named said anything that would change the current leadership was welcome.

“This has been long awaited. We were a bit disappointed after the military issued their statement and did not immediately follow it through with action because we are really tired,” the vendor said.

Many said they hoped the latest developments would herald an end to the Zanu PF era, with many others saying the intervention was necessary to block First Lady Grace Mugabe’s ascendency.

It was also calm in Shabanie, although a climate of fear enveloped the mining town.

While it was business as usual in the town, there were animated discussions about developments in Harare, with many speculating about ominous events ahead, while others feared an eruption of fierce conflict.

Some workers who had reported for duty were sent back home mid-morning.

Major retail outlets — OK Zimbabwe, TM and Pote supermarkets were operating as usual.

It was also business as usual at Mimosa Mine — jointly owned by Aquarius Platinum and Impala Platinum Holdings.

There was absolutely no military presence in the mining town, but there were roadblocks manned by traffic police at usual spots.

Zvishavane-based Ya FM also broadcasted, in almost all hourly news bulletins, the army’s latest statement.

But the station’s morning Ya FM Chola Bag programme steered clear of discussions around the military intervention.

In Mhangura, which has become dominated by informal trade since the closure of Mhangura Mine, the few employed went about their usual businesses as usual.

In fact, many were surprised and shocked at seeing the army addressing the nation on TV.

To most in the town, it was incomprehensible and unbelievable that Mugabe’s 37-year rule was on the brink of being extinguished.

The majority of the people who spoke to the Daily News did not seem to care that the army was subverting a constitutionally-elected government.

To them, change, by whatever means, is welcome.

In Bulawayo, the situation was also calm, with analysts based in the second capital predicting that the move by the army was the beginning of an end for long-ruling Mugabe and Zanu PF.

It was business as usual in the city, with people actually attending a game between FC Platinum and Tsholothso at Luveve Stadium and another one between Bantu Rovers and Dynamos at Barbourfields Stadium.

Bulawayo-based political analyst Samukele Hadebe said the latest development was an indication of the prolonged political and economic instability in the country.

“The fragility has been worsened by conflating the State with the ruling party Zanu PF. Instead of building and strengthening public institutions, they have been undermined by corruption and patronage.

“It would be foolhardy to have thought the military as an institution was exempt from these challenges,” said Hadebe.

Hadebe said drawing the military into politics, and partisan politics for that matter, was very unfortunate in the first place, but it was inevitable as part of patronage politics.

“The world has not forgotten the ‘straightjacket’ philosophy and the role of the security in 2008 elections and other elections for that matter,” he added.

The political analyst, who is also a renowned academic, said for the suffering Zimbabweans, the latest development is not a surprise.

“The voice of the majority was long silenced in Zimbabwe and citizens have long been peripheral in affairs of their governance. Ideally, we all wish for a return to normalcy but the million dollar question is how? Are we in charge of our destiny as a people?

“The answer to these questions would help us navigate through the trying and turbulent political waters.”

Political analyst Thomas Sithole said this was a clear military takeover.

“Military takeover has happened, albeit a soft and bloodless one. Zimbabweans have long wanted a new government as demonstrated in the previous elections but their wishes and aspirations have been thwarted by the very same military that has seized control of the State now,” said Sithole.

“What Zimbabweans wanted and still want is a new government through a democratic process not through a military takeover of sorts.”

Sithole said the development was most likely to usher in the end of Mugabe`s rule.

“There hasn’t been resistance as yet and if the situation remains as it is, there is going to be a peaceful transition. Zimbabweans generally are a peace-loving lot and they will do anything in their power to see peace prevail.”

Another analyst, Dumisani Nkomo, hailed the move by the army, which he described simply as a means to an end.

“It’s the beginning of the end. The army will give semblance of civilian rule and maybe push for transitional authority. Transitional authority will come next and the Sadc will mediate resulting in a second Government of National Unity possibly or transitional authority,” Nkomo said.

Ibhetshu Likazulu secretary-general Mbuso Fuzwayo also said it was the beginning of a new era.

“These developments are a signal that change is around the corner. We never expected that Zimbabwe can be under a military rule,” Fuzwayo said.

“The Mugabe era has always received backing from the army. So now the difference is it’s the same people who used to give him that support who are now against him.”

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