Zimbabweans have a new President and a not-so-new Cabinet for Christmas – and the New Year. And naturally, some are happy, some are not.
But did anyone in Zimbabwe – or anywhere else – really believe the army and ruling party moved in mid-November to remove Robert Mugabe from the seat of power to share that power with or hand it over to anyone else?
Did the Zimbabwe opposition parties really believe the army and the ZANU-PF dumped their Commander-in-Chief and Party Leader, respectively, to open the door to state power for opposition parties that have been fighting them for nearly four decades?
Did the Zimbabwe opposition really expect the man they christened "The Crocodile" to simply wade into calm political waters with jaws tightly closed and invite them to come share a swim?
I was the least surprised by the appointment of army generals, ruling party officials and war veterans to the new Cabinet announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa. I had seen or heard nothing that suggested otherwise from those who forced Mugabe to voluntarily resign.
The army insisted its intervention was not a coup and at no point did it or the ZANU-PF respond to the opposition’s demands, supported by the U.K. and the Western nations, for the establishment of a "transitional government of national unity" that would include – even possibly be led by – the political opposition.
With crucial elections due in 2018 and the new rulers promising it will go ahead as constitutionally scheduled, who – in their right mind – would have expected the opposition to get a free ride during the interim?
Anyone anywhere who expected differently is either naïve or simply does not understand the nature of politics – and not just in Africa.
I won’t say there haven’t been examples in history where it’s happened. But I cannot think of or remember any such case as was being advocated in and for Harare – and especially by outsiders.
What does come to mind, however, is a similar case not too long ago where a major Western nation had a similar experience – and the opposition was similarly shut out. And not a dog barked!
Just the other day in the United Kingdom, following Prime Minister David Cameron’s resignation after his Conservative Party’s loss of the Brexit referendum vote, new Party Leader Theresa May quickly reshuffled the Cabinet and appointed some of Cameron’s top rivals to top posts, the most glaring being Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary.
May then called a snap election that cost her and the running party another even greater loss: its clear majority in the parliament was reduced to the worst minority possible in the circumstances.
The poll result showed U.K. voters had as much confidence in Jeremy Corbin and his Labour Party as in the Tories – probably the clearest evidence of a popular recipe for a shared government of national unity.
But what did PM May do? She totally blanked Labour and went head-over-heels to embrace the smallest opposition parliamentary party to form the smallest possible minority-led government.
Yet, less than a year later the same Prime Minister May was calling on Zimbabwe’s new President and ruling party to do exactly what she simply refused to.
Unlike the U.K., Zimbabwe is heading into an election that will matter the most to its people and parties – the first without Mugabe or his hand-picked successor, his wife.
The massive popular support for the army’s removal of Mugabe did not translate into opposition to either Mnangagwa or the ZANU-PF.
Voters were more receptive to the change than anything else, even willing to give "The Crocodile" a chance to be their next President. They elected to "wait and see." But instead of bowing to their decision, the opposition and their Western backers – especially in London – have been crying foul and shedding crocodile tears.
Now the British and Western press are already speculating – indeed advocating – that Zimbabwe and Zimbabweans should be made to suffer by holding back on promised aid and/or making the removal of the crippling anti-Mugabe sanctions contingent on Mnangagwa’s inclusion of the political opposition in the transitional arrangement.
In the U.K. – as elsewhere in the Western world – decisions on which party or parties will lead any country are left to the electorate in "free and fair" elections. So then, why should it be different for Zimbabwe? If it’s not good for the West, why should it be good for Zimbabwe?
In Germany’s recent elections, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democratic Party suffered its worst defeat in recent times, even though it still emerged as the biggest winner. Merkel has tried everything to convince the other major parties – particularly the Social Democrats – to join her in another "Grand Coalition," alliance, or any kind of joint political arrangement to share power.
The German President privately and publicly urged the major parties to find ways to agree, but those opposed to unity with Merkel have simply stayed their course. In the circumstances, the old Chancellor continues to be the country’s new leader – and her old Cabinet also remains in office.
The lady chancellor is effectively serving her fourth consecutive term and – given the beating her party just got from German voters – has up to now stoutly (but understandably) refused to return to the polls.
There’s been not a word of protest to Chancellor Merkel from European Union (EU) member-states – and certainly not a squeak from her fellow lady leader in London.
It would, therefore, seem that, from London’s point of view, what is definitely considered not good for European geese, is much better – and actually being urgently prescribed – for African ganders.