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[VIEWPOINT] Mugabe and His Country: A Chinese Perspective

By Liu Yunyun (Assistant Executive Editor of Beijing Review)

It came as a big surprise to China that the long-time leader of Zimbabwe and an old friend of China’s had been confined and forced to resign in a “military coup,” despite the fact that many had long questioned whether the nation’s revolutionary leader could effectively lead the poverty-stricken nation to industrialisation and modernisation.

Though his resignation is deemed celebratory by many – some of his people and the so-called media elites from the West – his achievements and failures are part of the nation’s history and legacy which will remain true and significant in understanding this Southern African nation.

Mugabe visited China several times in the hope of finding support for his government and also the Chinese “secret” to success. But unfortunately, as our great reformer Deng Xiaoping had said to his entourage, after his meetings with Mugabe, “He won’t listen.”

China was once in the same international and domestic position as Zimbabwe: poor, backward, and with foreign sanctions. But eventually, after many twists and turns, it found out its own path for economic and social development, which is: making policy changes in accordance with its own national condition without blindly copying others’ way of governance.

READ MORE: Zimbabwe: Domestic Rivalries, US-China Competition Underlie Political Crisis

When it became evident that the former Soviet Union socialist approach could not help Zimbabwe, Mugabe did not draw lessons from the failure of the “big brother,” but instead, continued down the road of proactive policies in various fields, including the land ownership.

Looking back on history, there are some lessons to be learnt from the rise and fall of Mugabe: reform the system when it is necessary; put aside ideological debate while focusing on development; set up a legal base for transition of power and tenure system. Nonetheless, it’s always easier said than done. It is widely expected that his successor can move the nation forward, however difficult it now seems.

Resigned or not, Mugabe has been, is now, and will always be China’s good friend, and so also his country, Zimbabwe. As China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson said, China has always adhered to the principle of not interfering in internal affairs of other countries and respects Zimbabwean people’s choice and the choice of Mugabe too. China is committed to cooperation with Zimbabwe to improve the well-being of its people regardless of who its leader will be.

Zimbabwe: Domestic Rivalries, US-China Competition Underlie Political Crisis

By Eric Draitser

On November 14, 2017 military forces in Zimbabwe took control of the streets, sequestered President Robert Mugabe in his residence, and publicly announced that the kinda sorta but not really coup was merely a clean-up operation intended to “target criminals.” While the claim does have some merit – Zimbabwe’s government, like those of nearly all nations in Africa and the Global South, grapples with endemic corruption – it remains difficult to ignore the long and sordid history of military coups in Africa, and then avoid the tendency to view the developments in Zimbabwe through the same lens.

Indeed, most media outlets quickly branded the operation a military coup d’etat.  However, a more critical analysis reveals that this episode is decidedly different from the countless coups that have taken place in the post-colonial history of Africa. In fact, a number of Zimbabwean commentators have made precisely that claim (see here andhere).

George Shire, a London-based political analyst, and veteran of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, incisively noted to Al-Jazeera, “The dominance of ZANU-PF [Zimbabwe’s ruling party since liberation] on the political landscape in Zimbabwe is not in question…What you see is really a leadership contest taking place – Zimbabwean style.” This point is critical in that, typically, a coup would overthrow not only the President, but an entire ruling party in favor of a military that either assumes control itself or installs some new power structure or party. In this case, however, the military has intervened to block one faction of the ruling party from assuming power in favor of another faction.

On November 14, 2017 military forces in Zimbabwe took control of the streets, sequestered President Robert Mugabe in his residence, and publicly announced that the kinda sorta but not really coup was merely a clean-up operation intended to “target criminals.” While the claim does have some merit – Zimbabwe’s government, like those of nearly all nations in Africa and the Global South, grapples with endemic corruption – it remains difficult to ignore the long and sordid history of military coups in Africa, and then avoid the tendency to view the developments in Zimbabwe through the same lens.

Indeed, most media outlets quickly branded the operation a military coup d’etat.  However, a more critical analysis reveals that this episode is decidedly different from the countless coups that have taken place in the post-colonial history of Africa. In fact, a number of Zimbabwean commentators have made precisely that claim (see here and here).

George Shire, a London-based political analyst, and veteran of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, incisively noted to Al-Jazeera, “The dominance ofC [Zimbabwe’s ruling party since liberation] on the political landscape in Zimbabwe is not in question…What you see is really a leadership contest taking place – Zimbabwean style.” This point is critical in that, typically, a coup would overthrow not only the President, but an entire ruling party in favor of a military that either assumes control itself or installs some new power structure or party. In this case, however, the military has intervened to block one faction of the ruling party from assuming power in favor of another faction.

The political turmoil in Zimbabwe is a product of both domestic factional rivalries and broader international political intrigue. Don’t let the corporate media impose its usual superficial narrative on the events in Zimbabwe; as with all things Africa, there’s so much more than meets the eye.

On November 14, 2017 military forces in Zimbabwe took control of the streets, sequestered President Robert Mugabe in his residence, and publicly announced that the kinda sorta but not really coup was merely a clean-up operation intended to “target criminals.” While the claim does have some merit – Zimbabwe’s government, like those of nearly all nations in Africa and the Global South, grapples with endemic corruption – it remains difficult to ignore the long and sordid history of military coups in Africa, and then avoid the tendency to view the developments in Zimbabwe through the same lens.

Indeed, most media outlets quickly branded the operation a military coup d’etat. However, a more critical analysis reveals that this episode is decidedly different from the countless coups that have taken place in the post-colonial history of Africa. In fact, a number of Zimbabwean commentators have made precisely that claim (see here and here).

George Shire, a London-based political analyst, and veteran of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle, incisively noted to Al-Jazeera, “The dominance of ZANU-PF [Zimbabwe’s ruling party since liberation] on the political landscape in Zimbabwe is not in question…What you see is really a leadership contest taking place – Zimbabwean style.” This point is critical in that, typically, a coup would overthrow not only the President, but an entire ruling party in favor of a military that either assumes control itself or installs some new power structure or party. In this case, however, the military has intervened to block one faction of the ruling party from assuming power in favor of another faction.

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