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Zimbabwe's Military in Apparent Takeover, Says It Has Custody of President (nytimes.com)
81 points by dingoonline 9 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 83 comments



Pre-Mugabe Zimbabwe was known as "the breadbasket of Africa" for the productivity of its farms. Mugabe brought economic collapse and famine, while living a life of luxury and stashing billions overseas. Hopefully whoever comes next will be a better leader.


Let's hope so, but this looks more like an internal power struggle from the existing regime, so I don't expect any of the two factions to want real change (except about who gets the power and billions).


It was a different country. how well can ex-slaves and bushman run a country? democracy is not rooted in every culture, greed is :\

EDIT: just to be clear not every person in charge is ex-slave or something, but as a country even if they started financially strong it does not mean they had the culture to support it


Ah, colonialism. Construct a system designed to prevent people from having autonomy or self-governance while shipping their value overseas, then smear them as primitives when they take over and have difficulty with autonomy.


Greed per se is not the problem, it is greed above all else. The number one problem in Zimbabwe is corruption. Only once there is a strong body, be that courts, a corruption commission, or similar, that has the power to hold those in power to account then little will change. Zimbabwe badly need an effective rule of law that provides justice to all.


Where there is leader(governing group/body/system), there is power trip, have not seen otherwise. There will never be something different.


background: President is old and have succession problems. In recent years his wife trying to grab more and more power to be the next president but not everyone in the ruling party like that. last week she (from the mouth of the president) fired "number 2" in the country. since then everyone who was "friend" with number 2 was fired too. when they tried to get rid of the army general (friend of number 2) he refused to leave his office in claim that president wife doing undemocratic things. yesterday he did the "takeover". its not yet clear if the president will switched with the number 2 guy (the friend of the general).


Really interested to read more about this. This is really the most critical point of the succession question: Who can get the military to follow him. Both the highest general and the government leader have strong claims for military leadership and there is no pure logical answer if highest general and government leader don't agree. All depends on what happens between the different parties.


There's a good summary here: https://www.thezimbabwean.co/2017/11/standoff-zimbabwe-strug...

From today: listen to this from around 8:10 (it starts at 6am, so skip to 2:10) http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09drjhz


>"when they tried to get rid of the army general (friend of number 2) he refused to leave his office"

That was never confirmed


Its not the kind of things you can get confirmation. He was called a traitor in official letter yesterday.


He was called a traitor after issuing a statement that was a veiled threat against Mugabe. You are spreading inaccurate information


That was my interpretation too, until the end of the article when they said the military men who seized national TV actually spoke harshly of the general close to number 2.

Those were the same military men who said that the military had custody of Mugabe, so it's somewhat confusing.


The military is behind Chiwenga (friend of number 2), they only spoke harshly of, 'the criminal elements within ZanuPF. By 'criminal elements' they are referring to the G40 (anti- number 2 camp who got number 2 fired). The military has detained a lot of these 'criminal elements' and apparently Mugabe is also under 'house arrest'


It's good to remember that he is in power since 1980. Calling a dictator as a President doesn't make him one. And this doesn't make the takeover good or bad, btw.


"While denying that the military had seized power, they said that Mr. Mugabe and his family “are safe and sound, and their security is guaranteed.”

“We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice,"

This doesn't look good.


According to (whoever controls...) the official Zanu-PF twitter account, Robert Mugabe and his wife has been detained.

The former vice president, Mnangagwa (who was sacked by Mugabe last week, so that his wife Grace could take the #2 spot) is acting president, according to an army statement.

Also, reports of gun and artillery fire from northern Harare - the district where Mugabe and his cronies live.

Also, predictably, the army claims this is not a coup, and that they are merely acting to preserve the constitution and the republic. (That being said, if one is to stage a coup somewhere, one could find a less deserving country than Zimbabwe; let's just hope the army has the good sense to hand over power to civilian authorities ASAP.)


I know people that live in northern Harare and they haven't heard any gun and artillery fire. They live within a 3-5km radius of RM and his cronies also they haven't seen any tanks - yet. All very curious, but something is up.


According to Wikipedia, Zimbabwe's army has no serviceable tanks.


That is not their official twitter handle. I wouldn't take what they tweet as an official statement from ZanuPF


> This doesn't look good.

Who for?

The situation in Zimbabwe is bad enough that things could hardly get much worse. Worst case, one corrupt dictator gets replaced by a different successor than would otherwise have been the case. It's not like a military junta could be less democratic or more corrupt than the existing regime, after all.


I'd not be so sure. It can almost always get worse.


Sure, there could be a dictatorship, awe-inspiring corruption, brutal repression of political opposition, genocide, hyper-inflation, a famine, and stunning mismanagement of every aspect of the country.

...wait, those are all things that occurred under Mugabe. How much worse can things get? (Mind you, I have no particular reason to think the coup will make things better, inasmuch as it seems to have been conducted by close allies of Mugabe is order to maintain power, rather than a different faction looking to seize it.)


Well, they still have people living. They could address that next.


While that is true, there is more room for improvement in Zimbabwe than there is in most countries.


I thought military coups were a good thing. That's what Hollywood celebrities like Chelsea Handler and Sarah Silverman told us this year.


Shouldn't he have been removed quite some time ago for violating the UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide?


Removed by whom?


I suppose that's one of the UNs weakness in that they lack the ability to enforce a lot of conventions.


A world government with a force would be an interesting concept. Corrupt African states has lead to their citizens fleeing to Europe with EU solutions being band-aids like giving Libyan coast guard ships and money to prevent the ships from leaving Libyan waters, the better solution would be to fix corruption and help development in the refugees' home countries, but the EU governments can't do that, can they (giving the governments money would just mean the leaders would be able to afford a new villa and a few more Mercedes Benzes).


They could directly invest in infrastructure (coupled with suitably sized bribes, which can be kept to a small portion when done directly), which is what China is doing.

But they'd get accused of colonialism if they actually tried to help directly like that (and perhaps it would be true). So they're left in the untenable position of dealing with mass migration or funding warlords.


How many Libyans go to Europe by boat..?


Quite a lot: http://www.euronews.com/2017/06/26/more-than-30-migrant-boat...

Not all of them make it. The vessels aren't particularly seaworthy, and they're not allowed to dock, so effectively they dump their passengers in open boats and rely on the coastguard rescuing them and taking them to Italian soil.


We had that- we called it colonialism. And for suggesting that you will be racismed.


It worked for those cases where US interests aligned with UN interests. For everything else, not so much.


There is no evidence that UN is a U.S. puppet.

Russia used SC veto 7 times just in last 3 years. The last time USA has blocked any resolution was 2011.


What I meant is that military intervention backed by the UN is more likely when the US wants said military intervention.


And to put whom in power instead of him? It doesn't work.


It's been done before by the UN: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cambodia#Vietnamese_occupation...

TL;DR: Regime in cambodia genocides about 1/4 of its population between 1975-79, is removed from power by Vietnam. UN helps recovery from destruction of society by previous govt & transition to new govt which after some initial chaos stabilizes. It's still not a proper democracy, but at least it isn't genocidal.

Considering the extremely difficult circumstances (a genocide so bad that it destabilized society & vietnam being an authoritarian regime), I am actually impressed by what the UN managed to pull off.


I wish our neighbors well! its been a long time over due.I really hope it will be a peaceful transition, as SA has their own problems they need to deal with(cANCer)! We cannot have a refugee crisis and a civil war on our borders


Robert Mugabe has been president of Zimbabwe since 1987. That is, 30 years.


He was the prime minister and effectively the leader of Zimbabwe since 1980.


And initially he was a very good leader. But lately, if you listen to his speeches, he is downright senile. And he can hardly walk on his own. That's why the general convention of serving a maximum of 2 or 3 terms is so important.


Long before he turned senile, he turned corrupt. He has ruined his country economically.

This is the real reason for a maximum of 2 or 3 terms. Power corrupts.


Also when a regime has been involved in crime, they need to perpetuate themselves in power to avoid prosecution.


It's recently been proven you only need 1 year for this.


In the case I think you're thinking of, the corruption was pre-existing.


"This is the real reason for a maximum of 2 or 3 terms. Power corrupts."

It's still easy to be gamed, see Putin-Medvedev-Putin switch.


When was he a good leader? When he was sanctioning the genocide of the Matebele people in 1983?


No, when he hyperinflated the currency and bankrupted the country (in the 90s, not the most recent hyperinflation).


If by "good" you mean "adept at removing his enemies and any constraints on his power", then yes, he was very good


> initially he was a very good leader

When? What did he do that was good? He didn't implement democracy; that would have been good.


I've seen a few comments from 'initially he was a very good leader' followed by some criticism. I didnt know the answer so google wiki and while a lite verison of events it might help people understand things better:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_Mugabe#Prime_Minister_o...

Largely to me it seems he started with genuinely 'good intentions' that didn't work out, vs being a 'good leader'. Good to me includes both vision and execution.


It's probably wrong to reduce a person's success to one measure. He obviously had his failures, but his contributions to Zimbabwe's healthcare and education systems are what I remember and is why I called him a good leader early on.

Even today, here in neighbouring South Africa, there is a big gap in the average literacy rate of Zimbabwean and a South African.

Mugabe totally stuffed up the country later. But credit where credit is due.


As they say - Either you die (or step down in this case) a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

There are multiple cases in developing countries where the family/friends takes over in case of someone powerful going senile.


When was Mugabe a hero? Like, what year and what heroic thing did he do?


> Either you die (or step down in this case) a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

Evil is a choice, not a consequence of time. He destroyed that country, at the expense of the poor and to the profit of his cronys.

I wonder if this will impact North Korea. Zimbabwe is a major source of hard currency in exchange for weapons.


> I wonder if this will impact North Korea. Zimbabwe is a major source of hard currency in exchange for weapons.

I smell CIA. :- )


> Either you die (or step down in this case) a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.

In many countries these days, you are simply voted out of office or leave it when your term is up.


Which is why there must be good rules that people can't stay in power for too long. Power will corrupt eventually even the nicest of people.


How effect is this if its possible to be elected into office at a very late age.


These African countries always remind me of Darwin's Nightmare[0]. There is an interview with Raphael at 1:20:41 in which he says he wants a war because he can earn more money then.

[0]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xcnTWAyzhbg


A new strong man will appear. He will talk about a fresh start, a new aera, the press will celebrate him, his followers will demand part of the loot- transparency iternational celebrates his existance, the cycle goes on and on.


There have been several coups or other undemocratic assumptions of power recently: Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, China (Xi seems to have made himself dictator-for-life), Turkey, and to a degree in Japan, in at least one Eastern European country, and even in France (which AFAIK now has an indefinite state of emergency curtailing rights of citizens).

I wonder how much and in what way they are related to the U.S. changing its long-standing policy from being the guarantor of international order, and from being an advocate for democracy as a universal right. Some examples in my list started before the current US policy went into effect, but perhaps the US is accelerating a trend, merely responding to it, or even taking an active hand (during the Cold War the US played an active role in such things, from Congo/Zaire to Chile to Iran to Indonesia to many other places). Perhaps others are taking active hands now that the US is out of the picture (to a significant degree) as guarantor.

That trend, away from democracy, is very serious and is the headline here for me. Generations fought, struggled and died to establish the legacy of democracy and human rights that we inherited; what are we building for the next generation? It feels like we are just gambling away the family inheritance.


First of all, please don't call the U.S. the "guarantor of international order". It sounds as if the U.S. were a benefactor to the world. It is not, it has been all political alliances and power-play. Sometimes the U.S. backed democratic leaders, sometimes not (c.f. Pinochet, Park Chung Hee...).

Second, I myself consider the degradation of the current state of affairs in the world to be due to the global slowdown of economic growth. Less growth means less disposable income, means more social unrest and the rise of autocraty to maintain order.


While the US often acts reprehensibly, such as in the case of Chile, Iraq, and so on, the overwhelming majority of the international influence the US exerts is positive. The entire stability of Europe, Japan, South Korea (although Park Chung Hee was a dictator), and a handful of other countries was built by the US government. Counter-examples are easy to list, but somehow the more numerous positive examples are forgotten.

And what are you basing the "global slowdown of economic growth" on? Gross World Product has been growing at around 3% since the second world war, and hasn't slowed down recently at all: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gross_world_product And particularly, Africa is growing faster than anywhere else.


> While the US often acts reprehensibly, such as in the case of Chile, Iraq, and so on, the overwhelming majority of the international influence the US exerts is positive. (Citation Needed)

Please see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_involvement_in_r...


I cited examples right after where you cut off the quote.


To say that something is majority, you need to compare with the minority, minority was not provided.

Although I recognize a HN post can't possibly be able to enumerate and compare the magnitude of all possible ways the US influenced the world and tell objectively if it added more benefit than harm.

How did the US improve the stability of Middle East on the 1953 Coup d'Etat of Iran? Supporting Taliban in the 80s?

How helping overthrow (lots) of elected governments in South and Central America help them?

How is it that the US is a democracy champion but is more than happy to support cruel and corrupt military or religious dictatorships for it's own benefit? How does that help the world?

Are you really taking into account the implications of these actions and how they helped shape the current stage on your benefit-harm balance?


You talk as if I am forgetting the positive contributions of U.S. interventions, but I clearly specified that sometimes the U.S. contributed to democracy, sometimes not. My point was the U.S. did not do this out of pure goodwill, but to preserve their political alliances and world leader position.

It is fair to discuss if the global economic growth is slowing or not. I still think that is the case, excluding China, India and Africa. And that the GDP growth is not a good number for this, as it can be artificially inflated by government policies, without increasing the median income/buying power of the population.


> You talk as if I am forgetting the positive contributions of U.S. interventions, but I clearly specified that sometimes the U.S. contributed to democracy, sometimes not.

You said "It sounds as if the U.S. were a benefactor to the world. It is not...". In the majority if cases, the U.S. has clearly had a positive influence, meaning that it is indeed a benefactor to the world.

> I still think that is the case, excluding China, India and Africa.

Of course by excluding 53% of the world's population, including the country in question, it's really easy to say that GDP growth is slowing, but that makes no sense.


The U.S. had a net positive influence on their historical allied countries and an overall negative influence on their geopolitical opponents. I will not dwelve into which one is the majority of the world, that is not the point.


> don't call the U.S. the "guarantor of international order". It sounds as if the U.S. were a benefactor to the world

Order is not democracy or freedom; the US had the role of maintaining international order - preventing chaos. My comment pointed out many times when the US did not support democracy, including some of the same examples used by the parent.

However, I'll point out here that while imperfect, democracy expanded rapidly under 'Pax Americana' from WWII until recently. Almost all of Europe and all of the Americas are now democratic; there are some African countries, India, East Asia, SE Asia, and more. It has been an incredible time for liberty, despite the many and substantial setbacks.


Not just less growth, but also an increasing wealth-gap. Wealth gap will lead to increasingly dangerous conditions.


Tangent, but...

I'm actually curious if the wealth gap is part of what caused the slowdown -- the super rich got greedy, ate into their seed corn by taking too much wealth from the productive parts of the system, and now won't make the massive investments and restructuring of intake from them necessary to restore the system.


France has lifted its state of emergency two weeks ago after a new anti-terror law was passed by the government. While I wasn't fond of it, I am not sure it is fair to call it "undemocratic".

It was hard to get out of that state of emergency precisely because it was 1/ popular 2/ politically dangerous (what happens if a major scale attack happens right after it is being lifted?).


Thanks for the update.

> I am not sure it is fair to call it "undemocratic".

> It was hard to get out of that state of emergency precisely because it was 1/ popular 2/ politically dangerous (what happens if a major scale attack happens right after it is being lifted?).

If we define 'democratic' in the literal sense, majority rule, then I agree. But that's mob rule and not what people mean when they talk about democracy. Civil rights - protection of the minority from the majority - are assumed to be essential, and the state of emergency (if I understood correctly) suspended those rights to a degree. Civil rights exist specifically for situations like this one.

The way I remember it is the saying: 'Democracy must be more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what's for dinner'.


Agreed.


Saudi Arabia? China? Neither was a democracy to begin with.

Also it’s funny that you’re referring to the US - the greatest supporter of Saudi Arabia - as the noble protector of democracy and human rights. Seems like someone drank too much Kool-Aid?


> Saudi Arabia? China? Neither was a democracy to begin with.

True, and I used the term "undemocratic assumption of power", which is also true.

I didn't say they were democracies, though I understand why someone might take that implication. My point was that these governments are moving away from democracy to having power more consolidated and away from the rule of law to the rule of one person. In contrast, the leaders could have moved toward democracy, announcing reforms in that direction.

> Also it’s funny that you’re referring to the US - the greatest supporter of Saudi Arabia - as the noble protector of democracy and human rights. Seems like someone drank too much Kool-Aid?

I didn't mean to imply any nobility or altruism about it, and I purposely omitted that kind of language to avoid provoking a tangential debate on it.

Beyond a doubt the U.S.'s behavior, going back to its beginnings as a world power over a century ago, has been self-contradictory and complicated; sometimes the U.S. works in favor of democracy and sometimes against it. But also beyond a doubt, promotion of democracy has been one strong aspect of it, and it's been bipartisan until now. Reagan was a strong supporter (and yet undermined others). GW Bush claimed democracy promotion was part of his reason for invading Iraq, and they fully expected to establish a nascent democracy there and in Afghanistan. In this White House, establishing and supporting democracy is no longer discussed and is openly disparaged, and the White House openly admires dictators who consolidate power (including in China and Saudi Arabia).


> There have been several coups or other undemocratic assumptions of power recently: Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, China (Xi seems to have made himself dictator-for-life), Turkey, and to a degree in Japan, in at least one Eastern European country, and even in France (which AFAIK now has an indefinite state of emergency curtailing rights of citizens).

Saudi Arabia and China have not had coups, and are not democratic countries, so any change is "undemocratic", but that's not a chance and means little. Xi's actions are hardly different that Deng's or, before him, Mao's. Lumping them in with Turkey, which is experiencing a slow motion coup, is bizarre.

Conversely, Japan and France have neither had coups nor an "undemocratic assumption of power", so clearly don't belong in the same list as Turkey. Lebanon I'm not really familiar with, and I don't even know what Eastern European country you're talking about, so I can't comment on them, but the rest of your list makes no sense. Nor does Zimbabwe fit on your list; the coup is a best neutral in terms of democracy, and could be a step towards greater democracy.

> I wonder how much and in what way they are related to the U.S. changing its long-standing policy from being the guarantor of international order, and from being an advocate for democracy as a universal right

Unless you're talking about the second President Bush's much maligned (and mostly unsuccessful) foreign policy, I have no idea what you're talking about. The US has not traditionally advocated for democracy as a universal right, and it spent much of the Cold War backing dictators and, in some cases, overthrowing elected governments.

> That trend, away from democracy,

By which you mean "Turkey"? (And maybe Lebanon; again I'm unfamiliar with the situation there.) I see no trend.


I agree that the list includes a diverse set of situations; however, I didn't say 'these countries started as democracies and became non-democracies'. In every case, there are shifts of degree in the wrong direction (and I'll add here that recently there are few shifts the other way). But it's essential to note that these things are matters of degree.

In China, for example, the tradition of a rotating presidency, which party members had a role in choosing, has become a lifetime dictatorship; and rule of law has been replaced by rule of man. Free speech has become increasingly restricted. In contrast, Xi could have taken steps to devolve power more; he could have stepped aside, and introduced a law enshrining the tradition of limited terms for presidents (instead of discarding the tradition), or empowering the legislature. He could have announced open elections at the village level, and opened up speech and the press, as some of his predecessors did.

Japan has consolidated power at the executive level and taken steps to restrict some speech, and I already discussed France's emergency powers. Zimbabwe's coup is undemocratic. You may hope it will work out well, and so do I, but there was no democracy involved. These all are changes of degree, to less democracy.

Some comments in the parent are factually incorrect:

> Xi's actions are hardly different that Deng's or, before him, Mao's.

The actions of Mao, Deng, and Xi are starkly different. Deng is known almost as the anti-Mao (though he would never say that), for undoing the totalitarian ideological disaster of Mao, for putting China on a road to stable governance, and for opening it up economically and politically. The Tienanmen Square protests of June 4, 1989 were a culmination of Deng's political openness (obviously he changed course that day, but they were far more open when he stepped down than when he started). Deng purposely avoided taking on Mao's cult of personality, even to the extent of being cremated and having his ashes scattered in the sea so there would be no mausoleum like Mao and Lenin (IIRC). Deng began the tradition of limited terms for presidents, which Xi now has discarded; Xi also has pursued a cult of personality, in contrast to Deng. The foundation of Xi's legitimacy is the wealth of right-wing capitalism, in great contrast to Mao's foundation in the utter rejection of and work against such things, and his communist social and economic ideals and experiments.

> The US has not traditionally advocated for democracy as a universal right

I'm not sure what to say here. While the U.S. certainly has not always acted in accord with its words, it certainly has advocated exactly that repeatedly, loudly and strongly for generations, from Wilson, at least, through Obama. It's in the Declaration of Independence as the foundation of the country - "all men" are endowed with these rights, was the argument for independence.


>I wonder how much and in what way they are related to the U.S. changing its long-standing policy from being the guarantor of international order, and from being an advocate for democracy as a universal right.

I wonder how much it related to the U.S. deciding to become a global military empire after the fall of the Soviet Union, instead of declaring victory and seeking to create a world where the rule of law was respected.




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