When Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa usurped power from former president Robert Gabriel Mugabe in a military coup in November last year, he knew fully well that there would be no repercussions as he had done his homework thoroughly.
He was aware that Western countries did not care much about democracy, but rather were more interested in geo-political influence, business and making money their national interests in other words.
That is why the first order of business for his administration was to make as much noise as possible that “Zimbabwe was open for business”. This mantra is not directed at ordinary Zimbabweans, but to Western countries and their investors with whom he needs to mend broken relations.
Mnangagwa is not a fool!
He has been in the political field for a long time, and knows how the game of global geo-politics is played.
In real terms, global politics has less to do with democracy and human rights, but more with making money and business. As long the interests of investors, in this case from the West, are guaranteed, the leader’s hold on power is also guaranteed.
Just look at how many dictators in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, Western countries are doing business with the West.
Mnangagwa not only learnt this from global politics, but from his own mentor, Mugabe. When Mugabe came into power at independence in 1980, he had to protect former colonial power Britain’s interests in Zimbabwe, starting with land after bitter negotiations at Lancaster House in 1979 and their numerous companies.
Although the British initially wanted the late Bishop Abel Muzorwa to win, when Mugabe eventually won the 1980 elections, they worked with him well despite that those polls were fraught with irregularities, violence and intimidation.
The British didn’t care.
They embraced Mugabe and gave him numerous accolades in Western capitals. He became their guy.While, he was being bestowed all these prestigious awards — which included honorary degrees, a knight-hood from the British monarch, and many others — Mugabe was busy slaughtering tens of thousands of innocent citizens; unarmed men, women, and children in the Midlands and Matabeleland provinces with impunity.
The West never said a word, let alone impose sanctions on him. From the killing fields, he continued globe-trotting to all their capitals and receiving more accolades.
Actually, the British were part of Gukurahundi as they supplied Mugabe’s military with arms and trained his army, which was cowardly used to fight ordinary, unarmed people. As karma would have it, the same army later toppled Mugabe.
The North Korean-trained 5th Brigade however executed this operation.
Of course, the West wrongly believed Zapu — which was Soviet-sponsored — was communist and to them by extension the Ndebeles who largely supported the party were also communists who should not be allowed anywhere near power as they would nationalise their businesses. That was part of Cold War propaganda.
However, as far as the West is concerned Mugabe made a big mistake in 2000 by violently grabbing land and allowing a few white farmers to attacked or killed. That is when the issue of democracy, human rights and elections rigging started to surface. During Gukurahundi, they said nothing about human rights abuses even when as many as 20 000 civilians were massacred by the Mugabe’s troops. Only when their interests were affected did they start screaming and making noise. They inevitably imposed sanctions on Mugabe and his regime.
If there is one thing that Mugabe had been right about throughout his later years in power, it was that the sanctions imposed on his regime had nothing to do with democracy and human rights, but were a direct result of his land reform programme and dispossession of white farmers. He knew it because he committed the most heinous human rights abuses during Gukurahundi, but the West looked aside, while showering him with awards.
Maybe, he forgot the script in 2000 when he started tampering with Western interests. If he had not done that, the opposition would have been brutalised and elections stolen without any whimper from the West. Sanctions would not have been imposed.
This lesson was not lost on Mnangagwa when he came into power.
He had seen how the West has propped up similar tyrants in the past as long as their interests were protected.
Let us not forget that the West has supported, if not engineered, countless military coups in the past in order to install leaders who would protect their interests. No wonder they are not complaining about Mnangagwa’s coup. It is because they want him to protect their interests and so far he has been doing a good job for them.
The West has a history of supporting coups. For instance, on 11 September 1973, Chile’s General Augusto Pinochet ousted socialist Salvador Allende in a Western-backed coup. Pinochet was their guy.
Similarly, General Muhammad Suharto of Indonesia ousted Sukarno in 1967 in a military coup engineered by the West, naturally for their own interests.
The 1953 coup in Iran to remove the democratically-elected Mohammad Mosaddegh was the brainchild of the British to strengthen the monarchical rule of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi Shah who was later overthrown in the 1979 Revolution which toppled the Pahlavi Dynasty supported by the United States.
That marked the eventual replacement of 2 500 years of continuous Persian monarchy with an Islamic Republic under the Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.Furthermore, many other tyrants were supported and protected by Western powers for similar reasons.
These included the Philippines’ Ferdinand Marcos, Sadam Hussein before the fall-out and Latin American dictators.
Today, the script has not changed at all.
That is the lesson Mnangagwa, who is resisting apologising for Gukurahundi in which he was involved without any noise from the West, has so effectively learnt.
Those pinning their hopes on Western countries, especially Britain, to observe the forth-coming general elections impartially are only fooling themselves. Zimbabweans need to realise things have changed and they are now on their own again. Zimbabwe is open for the West to do their usual business – pursing their interests at all cost!