This week, Robert Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe for almost four decades, was ousted by military leaders who seized control of state institutions and detained Mugabe and his wife. Analysts believe former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa – whose firing earlier this month may have fueled the coup – will be installed as Zimbabwe’s president until new elections next year.
Nicolas van de Walle, government professor at Cornell University whose research focuses on democratization and the politics of economic reform in Africa, says the coup may temper Mugabe’s excesses but is unlikely to bring about political reform.
van de Walle says:
“The post-Mugabe era has begun in Zimbabwe, the country he ruled with guile and ruthlessness for 37 years. In a classic palace coup, the army has intervened to give power to Emmerson Mnangagwa, his former vice president and the regime’s second most powerful figure.
“The coup concludes a long struggle within the regime to decide who will succeed the 93-year-old president. Mnangagwa and Grace Mugabe, the president’s wife, had long been viewed as the heads of the two main factions jostling for control. With his background in intelligence, Mnangagwa’s power comes from the fact that he knows where all the bodies are buried. He also has long been viewed as close to the military, which moved on his behalf after Grace Mugabe had convinced her husband of removing him from power last week. The coup was the army’s response.
“Like all palace coups, this one is unlikely to bring about significant political change. It confirms again that the army remains the most powerful actor in the country; one, indeed that Mugabe has carefully cultivated for many years, even as he undermined other political institutions. At 75, Mnangagwa may lessen the random capriciousness that had become a hallmark of the aging Mugabe, but he is unlikely to embark on major political reform.”