As much as this was a bit of a surprise, I was not exactly shocked, as the previous day, international news channels had been awash with reports of military personnel and tanks having been sighted moving into the capital Harare. Furthermore, since the sacking of then vice president Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa by then president Robert Gabriel Mugabe a week before, there had been whispers of the former's comeback from self-imposed exile in South Africa to lead a military coup to oust his long-time mentor and father figure.
Similarly, these rumors were further heightened by a press release issued by military generals a few days earlier, which undoubtedly was a warning to Mugabe of their impending intervention.
This was all on the backdrop of years of fierce internal factional fighting within the ruling ZANU PF party - culminating in the firing of two consecutive vice presidents (Joice Teurai Ropa Mujuru on 9 December 2014, and Mnangagwa on 6 November 2017), at the instigation of the then first lady Grace - who were all allegedly leading factions vying to take over from the ailing nonagenarian leader.
That is why it was not, by any means, a coincidence that the sacking of the two vice presidents, and the coup d'etat against Mugabe, all occurred around the same period - November/December - as this was just before crucial ZANU PF congresses, traditionally held in December, whose climax has always been the appointment of senior office bearers.
Thus, as much as the military intervention, and subsequent takeover by Mnangagwa, were touted as "targeting criminals around (the then) president Mugabe, who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice", this was just a blatant lie - as the real motive was purely the fight for political power within the ruling ZANU PF party, and by extension, Zimbabwe.
It was then a huge mystery - considering the lengthy period in which these dirty and vicious power struggles and factional fighting had dragged on and played out in public - how the ordinary suffering citizens of Zimbabwe found themselves sucked into this purely ZANUPF mess, by blindly heeding the call for mass marches demanding Mugabe to step down.
These will forever live in, and torment, my memory as the worst 'moment of madness' on the part of some Zimbabweans.
I vividly remember watching - paralysed by unbelivable perplexity and bewilderment - live television coverage of these marches, with the massive crowds - coupled by a rally at Highfield's Zimbabwe Grounds, that were shamefully attended and addressed by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leadership of then vice presidents Nelson Chamisa and Elias Mudzuri.
I am sure those sitting around me at home could hear me mumbling, in a trembling and incredulous voice, something like, "What is wrong with Zimbabweans? Can they not see what is truly happening here? Are we such fools? Surely, are we willing to be swallowed into ZANU PF political shenanigans, whilst blindly supporting the taking over of government by the same vicious and atrocious people who cold-heartedly massacred and brutalised us since 1980?"
After the bewilderment had subsided, I immediately set down to busily writing a couple of articles meant to raise awareness on the disastrous decision that Zimbabweans had made by supporting and celebrating ZANU PF power struggles, that had absolutely nothing to do with the ordinary people, but would, in fact, result in continued or worsening of our plight.
In those articles, I made it clear that, as much as the people's boycotting of the marches would not have stopped the coup, but it would, at least, have instilled a sense of pride and a clear conscience in the citizenry, with the knowledge that they took no part in ushering in a 'new' government that would, obviously, turn their lives into a living nightmare.
I reminded the people that these coup-leaders they were supporting and celebrating were part and parcel of Mugabe's tyrannical and savage rule since the country attained independence from Britain in 1980, and had never had any qualms with his brutal misrule and rampant corruption. If anything, the ringleaders were accused of being central in such atrocities as Gukurahundi genocide, and the 2008 post-election massacres.
What did the people of Zimbabwe truly expect from such a leadership, now re-packaging itself as a 'new dispensation'?
Zimbabweans seemed to have forgotten the wise old adage, "a leopard does not change its spots" - and we were all to be horrendously reminded on 1 August 2018 (when six innocent bystanders and protestors were gunned down during post-July 30 harmonised elections riots), and in January 2019, when another dozen met the same fatal fate. None of the perpetrators of which were ever brought to book - despite, the clear findings and recommendations by the Kgalema Mothlante Commission of Inquiry.
Yet, several opposition legislators, and a vast number of other people were arrested and jailed for inciting or involvement in the riots.
Since then, numerous opposition and labour rights activists have either been reportedly threatened and/or abducted by people who have never been identified or arrested.
Furthermore, since August 2019 - when planned marches by the MDC were prohibited - virtually all subsequent demonstrations and rallies organised by the opposition party have been effectively banned.
This effectively rubbished the assurances during the 14 November 2017 coup that, "Members of Parliament (MPs) your legislative role is of paramount importance for peace and stability in this country, and it is our desire that a dispensation is created that allows you to serve your respective political constituencies according to democratic tenets" - which turned out to be just another smokescreen to deceive the people.
In the same vein, the economic meltdown which crippled the nation barely a year after the 'new dispensation' came into power, has been the greatest yoke on the necks of most Zimbabweans - characterised by all the ingredients that create a perfect 'hell on earth' - from incessant lack of gainful employment, foreign and local currencies, as well as spiralling prices of basic commodities, fuel, electricity, and medications, which are also in short supply - whilst, the generality of citizens earn an average of US$50 per month, leading to inevitable and completely understandable widespread disgruntlement, manifesting in strikes, demonstrations, stay aways, and incapacitation by workers who can no longer afford to travel to and fro work.
However, those who are in power or well-connected to the 'new dispensation', live lavishly as they gallivant all over the world in chartered private jets, and access world class medical care in foreign lands, all at the expense of the already suffering Zimbabweans who are ruthlessly taxed even on their hard-earned meagre electronic transactions. These 'crocodiles' - who seem to revel in feasting on the impoverished citizenry - also afford to send their children to the most expensive overseas schools.
Criminal cartels have become the order of the day in this country, as only a handful allegedly access foreign currency at concessionary rates - which is seldom utilised for its stated intended use, but, together with the scarce local currency, is freely and openly traded on the streets of all major cities and towns with impunity.
So, what happened to the objective of "targeting of criminals around Mugabe who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice"?
Not only have Zimbabweans not witnessed the overwhelming prosecution, conviction and sentencing of those 'criminals around Mugabe', but nothing convincingly meaningful has been done to the 'new dispensation' criminals - as the ordinary Zimbabwean is overwhelmed by unending and crippling economic woes!
Therefore, as Zimbabweans were clearly naively duped into believing, supporting, and celebrating a pathetic and cruel hoax - that the military intevention was for their welfare and wellbeing - it is never too late for a do-over, and to correct one's mistakes. As Frederick Douglas once popularly said - "Power concedes nothing without a demand", and "If there is no struggle, there's no progress". Let us never make the mistake of allowing our suffering and oppression - no matter how choking, debilitating, and brutal - to drive us into a state of desperation - as this makes us vulnerable to manipulation, naivety, gullibility, which then so easily results in us making grave mistakes and decisions that we will forever regret.
Zimbabweans need to be calculated thinkers and strategic planners, who play their cards very carefully and cleverly - being very careful never to be used and exploited by those with their own selfish political and economic ulterior motives. Like wolves in sheep's clothing, such people are all around us - purporting to know what is best for us.
We, the ordinary citizenry know first hand the pain and suffering that we are going through, and no one - absolutely, no one - can come to us like the fairy tale 'knight in shining armour' claiming to have our best interests at heart. Only we have the solutions to our own suffering and oppression.
Zimbabweans should now reclaim their rightful place in their country, but only through constitutional, peaceful and non-violent means - as violence is the language of cowards and bullies. As much as the people of Zimbabwe are divided along political, tribal, racial, and religious lines, nevertheless we have one thing that binds us together - our suffering.
Only as a united front can we ever expect to demand, reclaim, and receive the dignity that each and every one of us rightly deserves as a birthright. Let us not sell our birthright to those in power, as if they were more Zimbabwean than the rest of us - like the biblical Esau who sold his first born right to his younger brother Isaac, for a bowl of stew.
● Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a social justice activist, writer, author, and speaker. Please feel free to WhatsApp/call: +263733399640, or +263715667700, or calls only: +263782283975, or email: email@example.com.
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