Coup in Zimbabwe: Mugabe Out, Militaries Out!

President Robert Mugabe talks to General Constantino Chiwenga in Harare, Zimbabwe

During the night of November 15, the Zimbabwe Army carried out a coup d’état. In an operation in which hundreds of soldiers and tanks took the streets of the capital Harare, the military leaders arrested the president Robert Mugabe, of 93 years, and his wife Grace, which was supposed to be his successor.
By Daniel Sugasti.
A few days before, Mugabe had destitute the former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, “right hand” of the government and country for many years. After Mugabe’s detention, Mnangagwa returned to Zimbabwe and was named by the militaries as the new interim president. Neither the US nor South Africa –a regional power- condemned the action of the high militaries. They just called for “calm” and “stability” among other “democratic” statements.
However, two days later Mugabe appeared publically at a university graduation. The high military command, who since the beginning denied being the head of a “coup,” stated that there were steps forwards in the negotiation to eliminate the “criminals around Mugabe,” although he did not mention any name: “we are currently debating with the Commander-in-Chief [Mugabe] on the next step and we will inform the result of such debates as soon as we can,” says a military statement.
This opens a question on if Mugabe lost the power or not, or if there is a possibility of an agreement to keep him in power, as it has been for the last 37 years. This option cannot be fully dismissed, although the dynamic seems to indicate that the African dictator has the days numbered.
On Friday, the 17th, high commands of the ZANU-PF [Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front], the party-army that holds the power, affirmed that they are preparing a resolution to destitute Mugabe definitely based on an impeachment if he refuses to leave power. If this takes place, it would be nothing more than a “legalization” of the coup.
The historical opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, stated that Mugabe “to resign immediately” was “an interest of the people”.
During the first hours after the coup, there were no popular expressions of support or rejection. However, on Saturday 18, thousands of people went to the streets to support Mugabe’s leave. No to the Mugabe dynasty could be read in some banners. Frank Mutsidinkwa, 34, could not hold the tears before the demonstration: These are joy tears –he said. I have been waiting for this my entire life. We are finally free. We are finally free”.[1]
The demonstration against Mugabe was called by Independence War veterans and it was “allowed” by the Army.
On Sunday 19, Mugabe appeared again, in a TV speech, surrounded by military leaders and affirming that “our people need peace, security, law, and order,” and he avoided any formal resignation.
But hours before, the leadership of the ZANU-PF had expelled him from the presidency of the party and gave him an ultimatum to resign until Monday 20 or they would start the process of impeachment. The ZANU-PF named Emmerson Mnangagwa, a.k.a The Crocodile, a strong figure of the Independence War veterans, as the new party leader. Grace Mugabe was also expelled.
Despite the apparent political limbo, the reality is that Mugabe does not rule anymore. It is improbable that he recovers the power. Neither the majority of the Army nor of his own party are willing to support him. These times of uncertainty hide a period of negotiations regarding the less traumatic way for a succession –the one that avoids at any cost a people’s uprising.

Was it a coup? What type of coup?

The high military leadership affirms that there is no “coup d’état,” but they occupied the presidential palace, destitute Mugabe, surrounded the parliament, occupied the TV headquarters, and detained several ministers. There is no doubt that this is a coup led by the Armed Forces. The essential things to understand are the motives and nature.
We need to begin by relying on the definition of the political regime in Zimbabwe, a dictatorship of the party-army ZANU-PF, corrupt and bloody, serving the privileges of a black bourgeoisie (consolidated as such after the Independence) that guarantees the handing-over of national wealth to imperialism (gold, diamonds, platinum).
All of this in one of the poorest countries in the world. It is a dictatorship that holds the power through brutal repression in a country with more than 90% unemployment, and 70% of the population under the poverty line and depending on international humanitarian aid. A country with one of the highest HIV rates in the world: in 2010, the virus killed 2500 people per month, and left 1.3 million orphans. Thousands die of cholera and other epidemics.
This did not and will not change with the fall of Mugabe. What we see today is a “palace coup” in the frame of two bourgeois fractions equally dictatorial.
Given the age of Mugabe, a crisis emerged regarding his succession. On one side, Grace, the dictator’s wife, representing the wing known as the Generation 40; on the other, Mnangagwa, the former vice-president with strong bonds with the Army. Apparently, the sector that destitute Mugabe also has a strong relationship with China, which has major interests in the country and is counting on the South African decision of “letting things follow its course.” The militaries have no intention of changing the repressive nature of the regime. We are not before a coup that, pushed or not by mass struggle, deposes a dictator to establish a “democratic-bourgeois” regime, although reluctant. No; we are before a change of government in the frame of the same Bonapartist regime.

From Independence leader to bloody dictator

The former Rhodesia, which got its name in honor to the British businessman and colonizer Cecil Rhodes, who led the British occupation during the XIX Century, conquered its “independence” from the UK in 1965. The back-then prime Minister, Ian Smith, unilaterally proclaimed independence and adopted the name of Republic of Rhodesia, which voted a new constitution in 1969.
Without breaking bonds with the UK, Smith established a bloody and racist regime, based on the absolute power of the white minority and full apartheid and segregation of the black majority. Smith even declared that Rhodesia would not have a black government in a thousand years. The new republic, however, was not recognized by the British nor by the UN.
Like this, in the 1970s there was a bloody war for national freedom, from which Robert Mugabe emerged as the undeniable leader. The civil war between black nationalists and white racists cost over 30.000 lives. In 1980, with Smith’s regime completely weakened and internationally isolated, Robert Mugabe won the election and the country was renamed as the Zimbabwe Republic. The British endorsed peace negotiations to guarantee a number of seats to the white minority, and especially their right to keep the property of the farms for at least 10 years.
Like this, Mugabe ruled with an iron hand since 1980. He has nothing to “envy” to dictators like the Assad, Ghadafi, or Videla.
“Gukurahundi” is the name given to the killing by the military and para-military armed forces led by Mugabe between 1982 and 1987, under the pretext of fighting the opposition led by his former ally, Joshua Nkomo. At least 20.000 civilians died –many burnt alive,- mainly of the Ndebele ethnic, which supported Nkomo.
However, in 1987 Mugabe and Nkomo reached an agreement, and the latest was named vice-president.
In 1992, Mugabe married his back-then secretary, Grace, now in the core of the presidential dispute.
In 2000, the African dictator implemented an agrarian reform that “nationalized” part of the “big farms” (latifundium) still in hands of the old white minority, allegedly in favor of the black people. But those lands did not go to the black people but to Mugabe’s properties, his family’s, and the first circle of the ZANU-PF, in the context of a process of consolidation of the black bourgeoisie in the country.
In 2003, Mugabe stated: “I am still the Hitler of the current times. This Hitler has only one goal: justice for his people, sovereignty for his people, acknowledgment of his people’s independence. If this means to be Hitler, then let me be Hitler multiplied by ten”.[2]
This year, in midst of the succession crisis, Grace Mugabe said that her husband would be candidate again in the next election, as even death he would “run as a corpse.”
We insist: what is happening is a dispute of power between two dictatorial, bourgeois sectors. The most probable outcome is for Mugabe to lose power definitely and negotiate a “golden exile” in South Africa or another country, and that Zimbabwe goes into the hands of another military fraction. The Zimbabwe people will not win anything with the victory of Mugabe nor the generals that arrested him. It is like if, in Syria, the bloody Maher al-Assad led a coup against his brother Bashar.
The working class and people of Zimbabwe should not support either bourgeois, dictatorial fraction. Neither Mugabe nor those to succeed him will guarantee a program in favor of the exploited and oppressed classes, not even democratic freedoms for the people to organize. Constantino Chiwenga, chief of the Army, as much as Mnangagwa, now leader of the ZANU-PF, were part of Mugabe’s group, and they are now an alternative of continuation for the regime. From them, we can only expect more hunger, misery, unemployment, and handing-over of the country resources to imperialism.
Thus, it is necessary to organize independently and open the way against all capitalist, dictator fractions.
Mugabe Out, Militaries Out!
Down with the dictatorship in Zimbabwe!
No trust in the militaries!
Full democratic freedoms for the workers and people!
Free election now!
For a Free and Sovereign Constituent Assembly! 


Translation: Sofia Ballack.
[1] Original quote source:
[2] Our translation.


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