SEVERAL key players in the 2017 coup that toppled the late former President Robert Mugabe and elevated President Emmerson Mnangagwa to the helm have died in the past four years without fully realising the fruits of the military takeover project.
While some got rewarded, some died without enjoying fruits of their sweat. Many more are likely to die without getting anything out of it.
Others, like former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who endorsed the coup could be turning in their graves given what Zimbabwe has turned out to be. Perhaps Mugabe would even laugh at the thousands of people who marched claiming the country would be better in Mnangagwa’s hands.
In his last interview with journalists at his Blue Roof mansion in Borrowdale, Harare, in March 2018, Mugabe insisted Mnangagwa illegally secured power, but was incapable of running the country as he had no leadership and governance capacity. Both Mugabe and Tsvangirai — the biggest protagonists in Zimbabwean politics since 2000 — have now died.
Mugabe was the biggest loser. Tsvangirai died in February 2018 without much benefit, except payment of his medical bills and securing his Highlands house from the coup dispensation.
Robert Mugabe: Biggest loser
He was without a doubt the biggest lower. A victim of the coup by his long-time enforcer and some of his trusted lieutenants, he died a bitter man. Mugabe told journalist at his home in March 2018 that Mnangagwa had betrayed him and he also felt the weight of betrayal by his former allies, including Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga.
Asked by journalists why he did not act timely and decisively to counter the coup which many saw coming from afar, Mugabe said he could not imagine that Mnangagwa and Chiwenga could betray him as they did. He said he thought if they were disgruntled, they would come and talk to him as they had done over the previous decades.
Old age, the arrogance of power and a dramatic shift in power cost Mugabe his position.
The firing of Mnangagwa on 6 November 2017 acted as a catalyst to the coup and triggered his downfall. After the military took over the streets and placed him under house arrest, Mugabe made an appearance at a Zimbabwe Open University graduation ceremony in his first public appearance during the coup process.
He tried his best to resist the coup, especially during meetings with army commanders and the South African delegation on 16 November. But the die had been cast.
Euphoric scenes that followed on 18 November where thousands, if not millions, of those who marched demanding his resignation were not enough to unseat Mugabe hanging onto power by his fingernails. Mugabe hung on for days hoping he would last until the following month to choose a successor at the party’s extraordinary congress that December. His first national address flanked by security chiefs on 19 December also further showed his resistance to the coup.
The infamous “Asante Sana” night was widely viewed as the major hurdle to the coup project as Mugabe reaffirmed his position as head of state and government, Zanu PF leader, commander-in-chief, calling for unity and subsequently saying “good night” to expectant Zimbabweans who could not stomach another day under his suffocating leadership. Before that, the Zanu PF Central committee had swung into action on that same day to restore Mnangagwa into the party as leader pending endorsement of that decision by the extraordinary congress. Many party leaders were suspended or expelled.
That meeting is now subject to court action by a Zanu PF member Sybeth Musengezi who says the gathering was unconstitutional and unlawful, hence Mnangagwa is an illegal leader of the party.
On 20 November, Zanu PF gave Mugabe an ultimatum to resign or face impeachment. Mnangagwa released a statement urging Mugabe to listen to the people. Mugabe refused to resign. Impeachment proceedings commenced. Amid all that, Mugabe resigned. Wild scenes of jubilation followed. Prior to that on 17 November, War Veterans leader Christopher Mutsvangwa had returned from South Africa and held a press conference, urging people to flood the streets and demand Mugabe’s resignation, which they did on 18 November.
On 22 November, Mnangagwa returned home from exile and delivered a speech at the Zanu PF headquarters in Harare. Two days later, on 24 November he is inaugurated to succeed Mugabe.
After that it was downhill for Mugabe, who died on 6 September 2019 as a bitter man.
Morgan Tsvangirai: So near, yet so far
The late former MDC-T leader, who became a symbol of resistance against Mugabe, played a major role in sanitising the coup alongside other opposition officials and associated forces. He endorsed the coup while on his deathbed in South Africa.
Soon after that Tsvangirai flew back into the country from South Africa on 16 November when the coup was already underway. With Mugabe under house arrest, Tsvangirai’s presence and subsequent endorsement of the march by thousands demanding the late authoritarian’s departure was key in mobilising support against his old nemesis and strengthening public opinion.
Tsvangirai also called on Mugabe to resign. “Mr Mugabe must resign in line with national expectation and sentiment in order for a transitional mechanism to take affect,” he said.
He, however, strategically claimed it was not a coup, hoping to benefit from the putsch.
“If we are approached, we’ll participate. But for now it’s still speculation. Nothing has been initiated yet but I hope there will come a time when it is.”
And of the military’s actions?
“What is a coup?,” asks Tsvangirai, “The military have said it’s not a coup and we believe them … we have noted their commitment to a peaceful transition. I’m not aware of the status of Mr Mugabe. I know he’s safe in whatever circumstances he’s in. If there are any negotiations taking place, then it’s between him and the military.”
The former prime minister preferred the setting up of a National Transitional Authority to step in and govern the country, warning that a military government was retrogressive.
“Under this situation, we no longer have a Mugabe administration, so we need a National Transitional Authority that can build a bridge between the old order of Mugabe and the new authorities that must be elected through a credible vote,” he said.
Crucially also, Tsvangirai’s MDC-T legislators played a critical role when they joined hands with their Zanu PF colleagues to initiate an impeachment process which eventually led to Mugabe resigning. That is apart from marching in the streets.
Retired Lt-Gen Sibusiso Moyo: Face of coup
On 15 November 2017, Moyo (pictured) then a Major-General appeared on national television clad in military fatigue to announce that the military had moved in to remove criminals around the president. He denied it was a coup, but everybody knew it was. This would mark the beginning of the end of Mugabe’s dictatorship and Moyo was to become the face of the military coup.
In a booming voice, Moyo said: “Firstly we wish to assure our nation, His Excellency, the president of the republic of Zimbabwe and commander in chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, comrade RG 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.”
Days later on 18 November, Moyo appeared on the back of an army pick-up truck as thousands approached the State House during a march for Mugabe’s ouster, bellowing and persuading people to disperse.
“Nyaya yamaratidza yediscipline, kuzvibata nekuterera kwaratidza nyika yese kuti vanhu vemuZimbabwe vakafunda (You have showed discipline, and showed the world that Zimbabweans are educated),” he said.
Moyo was a major player in the planning and execution of the coup. He was in the war room, plotting the military takeover.
Unsurprisingly, he benefitted a lot from the coup. He traded his military fatigue for suits as the new Minister of Foreign Affairs and had a mammoth task of spearheading Zimbabwe’s re-engagement drive until he succumbed to Covid-19 in January this year. Moyo had become the face of the “new dispensation”.
Apart from becoming a minister and the attendant trappings of office, Moyo also reaped a lot of financial rewards, particularly through his close association with local tycoon Kudakwashe Tagwirei, probably the biggest beneficiary of the coup from a business and financial perspective.
Rtd Air Marshal Perrance Shiri:Shades of grey
Shiri was the Commander of the Airforce of Zimbabwe when the coup was unfolding. He was out of the country when tanks rolled into the capital streets and seized strategic ground to seal Mugabe’s fate. His position was, however, unclear.
Mugabe believed Shiri was against the coup and could command a resistance force, which included the police’s Support Unit, some members of the military and Central Intelligence Organisation operatives who were against the coup.
But he joined forces with his colleagues when he arrived back in the country.
After the coup, he was retired and appointed Agriculture minister. He reaped the benefits of being minister and trappings of office.
By the time of his death, he was a close ally of Vice-President Constantino Chiwenga — his old comrade, although there were once reports of them fighting each other, amid a mysterious shooting incident involving Shiri, and was mobilising grassroots support through the command agriculture programme.
Shiri died in July 2020 to Covid-19 without seeing much of the post-coup period and being held accountable for Gukurahundi massacres.
Retired Lt-Gen Douglas Nyikayaramba: Reluctant actor
Retired Major General Douglas Nyikayaramba, who died at the age of 64 in February due to Covid-19 complications, was one of the military generals who was against the 2017 putsch against Mugabe. Mugabe saw him as one of the possible commanders in any resistance fiorce assembled.
After the coup, he was a victim of a military purge, where generals were retired. He was appointed Zimbabwean ambassador to Mozambique. He became the fourth army general to die of the pandemic after Shiri, Moyo and former prison boss retired Major-General Paradzai Zimondi.
Peter Munetsi: A casualty of the coup
Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) senior officer Peter Munetsi was killed during the coup in November 2017 coup which ousted Mugabe. His wife Rossie demanded her late husband’s post-mortem report and US$600 000, which proved difficult for Mnangagwa’s new government to deal with.
It is not clear how many other people died during the coup. — STAFF WRITER.
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