[Marxism] Zimbabwe’s New Leader Stirs Fears That He Resembles the Old One

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Nov 25 10:44:20 MST 2017

NY Times, Nov. 25 2017
Zimbabwe’s New Leader Stirs Fears That He Resembles the Old One

HARARE, Zimbabwe — When Robert Mugabe stepped down as president this 
week, Mevion Gambiza, 28, quickly joined the throng of people 
celebrating the sudden end of his 37-year rule. Mr. Gambiza jumped on 
the roof of a taxi and rode around as the driver honked through the 
streets of the capital.

But by Friday morning, Mr. Gambiza, like many other Zimbabweans, had 
sobered up. By the time he came to the National Sport Stadium to watch 
the swearing-in of the new president — Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mr. Mugabe’s 
longtime right-hand man — it was more to witness history than from any 

“Nothing will change; poverty and suffering will continue,” said Mr. 
Gambiza, a graduate of the University of Zimbabwe. The only difference 
now, he said, was that one faction of the governing party had 
“outcompeted its rival, and now Mnangagwa’s bootlickers will have their 
full turn to loot from the state coffers.”

Mr. Mnangagwa, who fled into a brief exile after losing a power struggle 
less than three weeks ago, became Zimbabwe’s new president on Friday, 
succeeding Mr. Mugabe, 93, the leader he had backed for decades before 
helping to oust him last week.

It was a rapid reversal of fortunes that abruptly ended Mr. Mugabe’s 
rule — one of the longest reigns in Africa’s post-colonial history — and 
set off a complex mix of exhilaration, hope and deep skepticism among 

In his address, Mr. Mnangagwa (pronounced muh-nahn-GAHG-wah) said that 
the country’s domestic politics had “become poisoned and rancorous and 
polarizing,” apparently referring to the factional fighting inside the 
governing party, ZANU-PF.

“We should never remain hostages of our past,” Mr. Mnangagwa said, 
adding that his compatriots should “let bygones be bygones, readily 
embracing each other in defining a new destiny in our beloved Zimbabwe.”

The tens of thousands present in the stadium — most of them ZANU-PF 
die-hards who had been bused into the capital, Harare, from distant 
towns and villages in the party’s rural strongholds — loudly cheered Mr. 
Mnangagwa and hailed him as a “hero” and “liberator.”

Emerson Zinyera, 54, a retired police officer, said: “Today is true 
independence day. The one that was there was false. Today is 
independence that everyone, every Zimbabwean, can enjoy, not 
independence enjoyed by two people, Mugabe and his wife, Grace.”

But even as Mr. Mnangagwa promised a new era of democracy, the new 
leader, who was long known as Mr. Mugabe’s ruthless enforcer, faced a 
far more doubtful nation.

As the euphoria over the end of the Mugabe era began to subside, many 
opposition politicians, rights activists, ordinary citizens and even 
some party members were expressing concerns about entrusting a new 
Zimbabwe to a leader so closely tied to the old.

“This is a happy day,” said Virginia Kamoto, 34, a ZANU-PF member who 
was bused in with other supporters from southern Zimbabwe. “I was 
personally tired of Mugabe, who had stayed for far too long in power. I 
hope President Mnangagwa will not overstay in power. I hope he will not 
repress the people or tolerate corruption so that our country will be 
counted among the great nations of the world.”

Mr. Mnangagwa’s exact role in the military intervention that led to Mr. 
Mugabe’s downfall is not yet known. But on Wednesday, just hours after 
returning to Zimbabwe from South Africa, Mr. Mnangagwa thanked the 
generals who had backed him, saying he had been “in constant contact 
with the service chiefs throughout” the recent events.

The victory of Mr. Mnangagwa and the military — over a ZANU-PF faction 
led by Mr. Mugabe’s 52-year-old wife, Grace, and younger politicians 
with no experience in the nation’s war of liberation — underscored the 
old guard’s enduring grip on power, not only in Zimbabwe but also in 
nations like Angola, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa.

In all those countries, former liberation movements have held 
uninterrupted power over decades through a combination of patronage, 
coercion and, in some cases, outright military force.

In his 37-minute speech, Mr. Mnangagwa emphasized rebuilding the 
country’s economy by, in part, re-engaging with Western nations that cut 
off most ties with Zimbabwe after the seizure of white-owned farms 
starting in 2000. Mr. Mnangagwa said that compensation would be offered 
to those who had lost their properties, signaling his commitment to a 
process that had begun fitfully in recent years.

Mr. Mnangagwa reached out to rivals, though only in general terms. He 
praised the man he had helped topple by saying that “history will grant 
him his proper place and accord him his deserved stature as one of the 
founding fathers and leaders of our nation.”

“To me personally, he remains a father, mentor, comrade in arms and my 
leader,” he said of Mr. Mugabe, who did not attend the inauguration.

But whether his conciliatory words translate to action remains to be 
seen. Local and international organizations have said that several 
leaders of the losing faction were arrested and detained by the army, 
which is not authorized to do so. Some are still missing, their homes 
have been ransacked and their relatives beaten, human rights groups say.

For years, Mr. Mnangagwa, who served as Mr. Mugabe’s personal assistant 
and bodyguard during the war of liberation, had seemed a natural heir. 
As one of Mr. Mugabe’s top lieutenants, he has been accused of 
spearheading Mr. Mugabe’s most ruthless policies — including the 
massacre of thousands of civilians in the early 1980s, the invasion of 
white-owned farms in 2000 and the violent rigging of polls during the 
2008 election.

But on Nov. 6, Mr. Mnangagwa was fired as vice president by Mr. Mugabe 
after losing a political battle against the faction led by Mrs. Mugabe, 
who had vowed to succeed her husband. Mr. Mnangagwa, who said he feared 
for his life, fled Zimbabwe, crossing the border into neighboring 
Mozambique on foot, and eventually arriving in South Africa.

Then, last week, the army put the Mugabes under house arrest after the 
former president attempted to arrest Mr. Mnangagwa’s close ally, Gen. 
Constantino Chiwenga, Zimbabwe’s top military commander. Mr. Mnangagwa’s 
military allies, as well as his supporters inside the party, quickly 
maneuvered Mr. Mugabe out of power.

In Africa Unity Square, the capital’s main public area, thousands 
celebrated Mr. Mugabe’s resignation on Tuesday, partying late into the 
evening. On Friday, a few hours after the new president’s address, the 
mood was subdued.

Remind Mugumba, 36, a wedding photographer, had watched Mr. Mnangagwa’s 
address in a bar.

“I was at Africa Unity Square on Tuesday celebrating when news broke out 
that Mugabe had resigned,” he said. “But I’m sure really there is 
nothing much to celebrate because this is just another ZANU-PF person 
coming to lead us, and really not much change will come from him.”

Artwell Mugari, 44, a security guard at a nearby hotel, said that on 
Tuesday he was caught up in the moment and found himself celebrating 
with the crowds pouring into the square.

By Friday afternoon, though, his mood had changed. With a younger and 
stronger leader, ZANU-PF had now been reinvigorated, not replaced, he said.

“I’m worried that the opposition may now never find another chance to 
rule,” Mr. Mugari said. “Mnangagwa was Mugabe’s right-hand man who did 
all the dirty work for him at every election. He knows the tricks of 
keeping power.”

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