Gibbs Dube VOA
WASHINGTON — African Union Ambassador to the United States, Dr. Arikana Chihombori Quao, says there was no coup in Zimbabwe as the military used a provision of the nation’s constitution to avert a political crisis.
Dr. Chihombori Quao, who made these remarks at a townhall meeting titled ‘Zimbabwe: The Way Forward’ convened by VOA Studio 7 in Washington DC last Thursday, said the Zimbabwe Defence Forces did not violate the constitution when they forced the removal of former President Robert Mugabe.
“They acted within the constitution to do that. So, there was no coup but there was a provision within the constitution for the army to do that because of the conditions on the ground at that time and they moved in swiftly according to the constitution and address the issue,” she said.
Dr. Chihombori Quao stressed that the Africa Union is proud of Zimbabweans, who ensured that there was peace while power was being transferred from Mugabe to current president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who fled to South Africa after he was sacked by the then president for alleged disloyalty.
“We are so glad that Zimbabwe has set an example for Africa how we don’t kill each other. There was no looting, there was no killing. It was a peaceful transition and it’s a good day, it’s a new day in Zimbabwe … From the African Union side we are very proud and pleased that Africa in general and Zimbabwe is leading the way … that we have matured as communities from a political point of view. So, yes Zimbabwe is a success story and I reiterate there was no coup.”
Her views were echoed by Zanu PF activist, Dr. Frenk Guni, who said his party is pleased that President Mnangagwa is the new leader of the party following serious internal divisions pitting the so-called Generation 40, which wanted former First Lady Grace Mugabe to succeed her husband and another one said to be led by the current president.
Dr. Guni, who was a panelist together with Dr. Chihombori Quao, Den Moyo of the Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai and Rutendo Mudzamiri of Women to Watch Network, said the military acted diligently in averting a national crisis.
“There were some people who were supporting Grace Mugabe and when we realized that the people in the G40 led by Dr. Grace Mugabe were diverting from the fundamental principles of our party we took corrective measures and that has been addressed. It’s going to be a thing of the past. We are democratizing our party (and) even people who were in the G40 they are being welcomed back into the party provided they are willing to tow the party line.”
Some G40 members, including former Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo, Zanu PF Youth League secretary Kudzanyi Chipanga and several others are appearing in court facing various charges ranging from corruption to undermining the authority of General Constantino Chiwenga, who masterminded the military intervention.
Others like former Higher Education Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo and former Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, who are said to be architects of the G40 succession plan, are in exile.
The Zimbabwe Defence Force cited Section 211 of the country’s constitution for interfering in the political processes of the ruling Zanu PF party, which it claimed were likely to spark public discontent.
Section 211 stipulates that “the function of the Defence Forces is to protect Zimbabwe, its people, its national security and interests and its territorial integrity and to uphold this Constitution.”
“You can see the change as it happening right now. The way forward for Zimbabwe from a Zanu PF perspective is number one economic recovery, addressing our economic fundamentals to ensure that we put in place sound economic policies that attract investment and ensuring that things like property rights are protected and investors are welcome in Zimbabwe to do business … Improve the issue of doing business with Zimbabwe.
“The second thing that the new government and the new Zanu PF is going to do is to ensure that there is affordable access to health care for all Zimbabweans. We are no longer going to see a situation where Zimbabweans have to go to board planes and cross borders to look for health care.”
But Moyo immediately shot back saying Zanu PF is always fond of making such statements, which were not beneficial to Zimbabweans.
“We have held these conferences over and over for a very long time and every time the Zanu PF people come here and say ‘we will do this, we will do that’ and then drink tea and walk away and nothing happens, it’s always been the same. When are we going as Zimbabwean as a people going to accept that this is not working. We cannot continue doing the same thing all the time over and over and expect a different result. Einstein called that insanity.”
Mudzamiri chided both MDC-T and Zanu PF for not fully engaging youth in Zimbabwe saying young people want to participate in political processes without coercion.
“We need to know the power of our voice and we need to be willing not to be all talk but to be open to what MDC has to offer, to what Zanu PF has to offer and take everything with a pinch of salt … At least take everything with an open mind so that we are not just going to say ‘yes’ to everything because we have seen and attended Africa Union meetings, we have seen what SADC (Southern African Development Community) can do, we have seen what the United Nations can do but as young people are we willing to be that change that we want to see and not take everything at face value because it’s not going to be enough for us to take what unfortunately I see as a sided view where African Union is concerned. It’s true that there have more factual things Arikana is saying but it’s also not true to push propaganda because for so many years that what we have received as young people.”
She said young people should be respected if Zimbabwe, other nations and the African Union have to work hand in hand with them.
“I am saying we are tired, we are frustrated, we are angry and we don’t want to be taking that (propaganda) … All talk no action, everything good on paper … As young people we just need a progressive administration whether it’s Grace Mugabe, President Mnangagwa, whether it’s Zanu PF, whether it’s MDC or anybody. We just need progressive administrations. Why do I say so? We need respect where rule of law is concerned, we need respect where human rights are concerned, we need free and fair elections, we need to make sure there is freedom of the press. Our platform as young people is social media. Are we having that freedom?”
Several people took turns at the townhall meeting to question the panel with some expressing reservations over the current government led by Mnangagwa, saying it looks like an appendage of the Mugabe regime, which has been blamed for ruining a once vibrant economy.
Mugabe always blamed the West for the southern nation’s economic downturn claiming that sanctions imposed on him and his inner circle were to blame for the serious social, economic and political problems in Zimbabwe.
Gibbs Dube VOA