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"It Was A Coup—It Wasn't A Coup" The Zimbabwean Coup D'etat In Perspective

On the evening of 14th November 2017, elements of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces gathered around Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, and seized control of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and other important installations within the city in what senior members of military describe as ''acting in the best interest of the Zimbabwean people.

Mugabe's reign increasingly and seemingly/clearly was coming to and end unfortunately in a rather bizarre fashion full of drama and needless spectacle.

Everything looked new and strange in Zimbabwe at that time...

This kept students of politics, security, intelligence and international relations wondering what actually happening in Zimbabwe.

But alas...
Whilst Africa and the rest of the world was struggling to understand what was going on in Mugabe's Zimbabwe with regards to rumors of a possible coup in that country following attempts by Mr Mugabe to handover power to his wife Grace Mugabe, the military made it categorically clear at the time that their action was one that was aimed at preventing some criminal elements within the Zanu PF party from taking undue advantage of the existing political situation to steal.

They insisted that they were not staging a coup to overthrow president Mugabe's government"

In fact, they promised the Zimbabwean people and the international community that the security of president Mugabe and his family was guaranteed, reiterating that no one was going to do anything on toward to them.

Things didn't look too clear and kept agitating the minds of people...

Then the hour came for the strange announcement on ZBC that left the world even more confused and wondering what was going on in Zimbabwe.

The announcement was...
"To both our people and the world beyond our borders, we wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover of government" General Moyo

This particular announcement was received by many watchers of international politics, international relations and security as both strange and novel considering that it defied all the definitions of a coup.

Some sections of the media that reported the overthrow of Mugabe did not know which exact terminologies to employ in reporting the situation. Some described it as a takeover, others called it a coup or palace coup whilst others were torn between the middle and didn't just know how to call it.

"It was a coup - it wasn't a coup"
What then is a coup d'etat or coup?
The Merriam Webster defines a coup as "a sudden decisive exercise of force in politics; especially : the violent overthrow or alteration of an existing government by a small group"

A coup d'etat also known simply as a coup, a putsch, golpe de estado, or an overthrow, is the illegal and overt seizure of a state by the military or other elites within the state apparatus" Wikipedia

Also, Wikipedia defines the other type of coup which is called a palace coup as "a non-violent overthrow of a sovereign or government by senior officials within the ruling group"

In a palace coup, elements of the same junta takes over from an existing leadership of the same junta like it happened in the Ghana example with Supreme military council SMC 1&2.

It worthy to note that the period of the SMC in the Ghanaian political history can be divided into two eras. These are :

Acheampong era - SMC - 1 (October 9, 1975 - July 5, 1978)

Akuffo era - SMC 2 - (July 5, 1978 - June 4, 1979)
Clearly, looking at the events that culminated in the ousting of president Robert Mugabe and the subsequent formation of the new cabinet by the the current president whose sacking and forced exile into South Africa triggered the events that eventually led to overthrow of the longest serving president in Africa - president Robert Mugabe, one is tempted to believe that the situation in Zimbabwe although novel, was a classical form of a palace coup.

My reasons for arriving at this conclusion is the fact that this coup in Zimbabwe largely had the support of trusted elements of Mugabe within the government, Zanu PF and of course the military.

This explained why Mr Mugabe himself was so comfortable to the extent that he was able to move about in the capital and also took part in the graduation ceremony of the Zimbabwean university.

The end they usually say justifies the means and with my little understanding of what makes "a coup a coup" that is; the ingredients or elements so to speak of a coup; I will like to submit without any fear of equivocation and contradiction that the Zimbabwean political situation that saw the overthrow of Mugabe had all the elements of a coup especially coming towards the end leading to the formation of the new cabinet by President Emerson Mnangagwa that saw many of the military elements being named as part of the cabinet.

If the military had not taken part in sharing of the spoils of the coup by way of accepting cabinet positions in Mr Mnangagwa's government, it would have been very difficult for any observer to reach the kind of conclusions I have made herein.

Although many of the ingredients of a typical African coup were absent in the Zimbabwean situation, it still does not defeat the fact that this was a coup.

The Zimbabwe coup was a coup was a coup because the end has finally justified the means and we are having the Zimbabwean military that announced to the world that they were not interested in a coup now queuing to take up key cabinet positions as their reward for outing Mugabe.

It is extremely important for me to insist once again that the fact that the Zimbabwe coup did not have all or perhaps any of the ingredients of a typical African coup, it is still important to recognize that it is a coup because the military leaders who managed the whole episode of the overthrow of Mugabe have left barracks and they are now in the government house as civilian employees of the state.

Because this coup was largely occasioned by Mr Mugabe's own confidants in government and the Zanu PF party with the tacit support of the military actors all of whom are also Mugabe's right hand men cum confidants, it is safe to conclude that it was a palace coup situation especially as all these various groups are now in government as a result of the coup.

Abdul Hanan Mohammed EL-Saeed

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