Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has made his first public appears since Army tanks drove through the streets of the capital and made a statement on national television stating that they intend to bring criminals to justice who have surrounded the President.
While it later emerged that Mugabe was under house arrest, yesterday he was pictured in a meeting with military leaders and today he made a public appearance at a graduation ceremony at the Open University of Harare.
Mugabe made a short apolitical speech and led the crowd in the national anthem. He was received with warm applause by the university students.
Earlier today, the Army released a statement saying,
“Significant progress has been made in their operation to weed out criminals around President Mugabe”.
This statement appears to indicate that the Army does not wish to remove Mugabe from power, certainly not in the immediate future. Instead it is becoming more likely that they are attempting to negotiate with Mugabe to both force him to renounce his unpopular wife Grace as a would be heir to the leadership while also reinstate recently sacked Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Yesterday, I detailed the four possible outcomes of the events in Zimbabwe in the following way,
“1. Mugabe remains in power but Grace is removed from the proverbial line of succession
Mugabe still retains a great deal of support among his ethnic and party political base, although many erstwhile supports have grown fatigued with a Presidency that has seen record levels of inflation and protracted economic turmoil.
Due to his advanced age, there would be a level of wisdom implicit in allowing Mugabe to finish his Presidency peacefully and with few changes to the status quo in the short term. For the apparent supporters of Mr. Mnangagwa, this might require a guarantee from the President, that Grace will not be thrust into a leadership position upon Mugabe’s resignation or death.
This situation is the closest possible scenario to a “win-win”. This scenario would preserve much of the legal order, while in the medium and long term it would giving ‘coup’ leaders the most important concession what they apparently seek. It would also placate South Africa which is keen on seeing off any instability in Zimbabwe.
2. Mugabe remains titular President but is forced to hand over powers.
This situation would not be ideal for Mugabe who seems to relish the depth and breadth of his power. This is something generally accepted by Mugabe’s admirers while it remains a bone of contention among his detractors.
However, depending on the strength and support of the ‘coup’ leaders, they may force Mugabe into accepting an offer he is not in a position to refuse. If the option for Mugabe is surrendering some powers or surrendering all powers, he may well opt for the lesser of two evils, from his inevitable perspective.
3. Mugabe turns the tide, punishes the ‘coup’ leaders and remains as strong as ever
Mugabe is one of the greatest if not most infamous political survivors of the 20th and 21st century. If his supporters are able to mobilise against the ‘coup’ leaders, it is conceivable that Mugabe could jail or even execute his opponents and continue business as usual for the foreseeable future.
4. Mugabe is forced from power
Alternatively, if Mugabe’s base desserts him in the face of the real or perceived strength of those effectively holding him under house arrest, the Presidency could collapse, paving the way for formal (however extra-legal) transition to a new leadership”.
It appears that the scenario preferred by South Africa, the option to leave Mugabe in power but to make provisions assuring that Grace does not replace him upon his retirement or death, is being undertaken at this time. That being said, events are still moving at a rapid pace. What is clear though is that the events in Zimbabwe are an internal matter.