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No Rejoicing in Harare

There have been no pictures from Harare of rejoicing in the streets after the ‘non-coup’ that ousted President Robert Mugabe, and with good reason: no one knows what is likely to happen next. 

And the man allegedly behind the non-coup, Emmerson Mnangagwa, looks about as cuddly as a crocodile.  That is, in fact, his nickname, ‘The Crocodile’, one that I doubt he acquired for his resemblance, physical or behavioural, to Paddington Bear.

Even so, I say good riddance to Mugabe, not to mention his dreadful wife Grace, a lavish-spending termagant, whose ambition to succeed her husband, and her talking him into firing his deputy, the aforementioned Mnangagwa, led directly to the present crisis.  Mr. Mugabe is apparently under house arrest in Harare.  Mrs. Mugabe is reported to have fled to neighbouring Namibia.  Standing behind your husband is fine, but only so long as he is the most powerful man in the country.    

A fellow journalist once told me a story about the high-living habits of this odd couple.  He was at Harare airport waiting to board an Air Zimbabwe flight to London when it was suddenly cancelled because of a ‘technical problem’.  There would not be another London flight until the next day.  The ‘technical problem’ turned out to be, or so the story goes, that the flight had been commandeered by the Mugabes, to facilitate one of Grace’s regular shopping expeditions to Knightsbridge.

Those of us who have been to Zimbabwe and felt an immediate kinship with oppressed people (while admiring the scenery and the animals) wish the country well. 

But I would not bank on Mr. Mnangagwa – assuming he is the man who will now become president – disposing of the hated Mugabe legacy in a hurry.  Military coups – and that is what this takeover is, for all the denials – are rarely staged in order to introduce democracy; more usually, they are designed to replace one despot with another.

Still, the situation is unclear as I write this, and perhaps another day will bring good news.

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