The UK Government is grappling with internal divisions over its endorsement of Emmerson Mnangagwa’s military coup that ousted Zimbabwe’s long-standing leader, Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe was removed by the military in November 2017, accusing his deputy, Mnangagwa, of conspiring against him.
According to Grace Mugabe, the late president’s wife, Mnangagwa had a history of plotting against Mugabe dating back to 1980.
In 2004, Mnangagwa, in collaboration with the former Information Minister, Jonathan Moyo, initiated an anti-Mugabe campaign later to be known as the Tsholotsho declaration, expressing his desire to become Zanu PF’s first secretary, challenging Mugabe’s continued leadership.
On his social media platforms, a UK-based Zimbabwean journalist, Stanley Kwenda, highlighted an excerpt from former British Africa Minister Rory Stewart’s book, “Politics on the Edge,” revealing the UK government’s miscalculation in trusting Mnangagwa as a reformist.
Kwenda paraphrased Stewart’s account of a crisis meeting at King Charles Street, where the former UK Ambassador to Zimbabwe, Catriona Laing, suggested embracing Mnangagwa without imposing conditions. Stewart proposed three conditions:
Fair elections for the opposition.
Cleaning up the voters’ roll.
Granting Zimbabwean expatriates the right to vote.
The ambassador dismissed these conditions, asserting that the opposition couldn’t win elections and Mnangagwa would not allow expatriates to vote.
Commenting on British regrets, Garikai Chaunza, a Rhodes University Journalism PhD fellow, criticised the intelligence lapse at 10 Downing Street. Chaunza argued that the British underestimated Zanu PF, perceiving it solely as Mugabe’s project. The assumption that Mnangagwa would inherit Mugabe’s authority proved wrong.
“They needed to realise that Zanu PF isn’t just one person but a militarised, institutionalised mafia organisation, a misunderstanding also shared by the opposition since it began in 1999”, he noted.
Chaunza said the British wrongly believed Mnangagwa would dismantle the military infrastructure and make decisions favouring them.
” Zanu PF is controlled by a click benefitting from actions like land seizures and economic exploitation, this organised group fiercely protects its acquired wealth. They would never allow someone they don’t trust to lead the country, fearing the loss of their ill-gotten properties and potential imprisonment. The junta removed Mugabe because the elderly leader was undermining their influence, with many facing the threat of imprisonment. It’s reassuring that the British have now understood the true nature of Zanu PF,” Chaunza further noted.
However, warnings were given at the start of the coup month about the grave mistake of supporting Mnangagwa https://africanarguments.org/2017/11/zimbabwe-the-uks-misguided-role-in-the-rise-and-fall-of-mnangagwa/.