Observers will be asking if what is happening in Zimbabwe is a military takeover, or basically office politics that have run wildly out of control. The answer is both.
It is fairly clear the armed forces have taken power in the former British colony – they control the state broadcaster, the streets of the capital and, most importantly, the personal residence of the head of state.
It is also fairly clear why they have acted now. This is a pre-emptive strike to stop Grace Mugabe, the president’s 53-year-old wife, and her clique taking pole position in the race to succeed the oldest living ruler in the world.
The soldiers are also concerned about a further massive deterioration of the economy. Inflation and the collapse of the Zimbabwean currency has already impoverished many rank and file soldiers, and hit the incomes of officers too. The wages of the millions of government employees – troops, police, civil servants and others – often go unpaid for months on end. This means the seizure of power today will be greeted by many with relief, if not enthusiasm.
The course of events over the next few days is harder to see clearly. Whatever happens is likely to be chaotic and fast-moving – though it will be a surprise if there is any violent resistance to the takeover.
Once the dust settles, and the rise of Grace and her faction has been reversed, the soldiers will have to decide. Will they return power to the civilians – particularly the ageing head of state and commander-in-chief, Mugabe – or will the temptation to run the country themselves prove too great? Will they call back Mnangagwa to take power himself with Mugabe perhaps reduced to a figurehead?
Another Socialist Wonderland
Mike "Mish" Shedlock