Desie Heita & Matheus Hamutenya
Windhoek/Keetmanshoop-Namibia has added her voice of concern to the developments unfolding in Zimbabwe, with the international relations minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah saying Namibia’s “expectation [is that] Zimbabwean democratic institutions in Zimbabwe will continue to carry out their constitutional functions”. At present, Nandi-Ndaitwah said, Namibia is following with keen interest the developments in Zimbabwe, where the Zimbabwean military has rolled tanks and soldiers into the streets of Harare, effectively taking over the country on Wednesday morning.
The military issued a statement assuring that Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe and his family “are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed”.
“Namibia is concerned that the present situation in Zimbabwe creates uncertainty that is not conducive to peace, stability and consolidation of democracy in Zimbabwe and the region as a whole,” Nandi-Ndaitwah, who is also the country’s deputy prime minister, told New Era at Keetmanshoop Airport yesterday. She also said Namibian students and staff in Zimbabwe are safe.
Nandi-Ndaitwah said Namibia notes that the Zimbabwe Defence Force has assured the residents of that country and the international community at large that they have not overthrown the government and that they have no intention to take over the governance of the country.
On Wednesday Zimbabwean soldiers stormed the state-owned television station, ZBC, and ordered staff to leave. The soldiers read out a statement on television, which was later posted on ZBC TV website, that says: “We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country, in order to bring them to justice. As soon as we have accomplished our mission we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.”
Many have questioned whether or not what is happening in Zimbabwe is a coup d’état, and why SADC is not fast to pronounce itself. However, local analyst and university lecturer of international relations, Dr Charles Mubita, yesterday said: “The one thing that SADC will not do is to make pronouncements publicly on sensitive matters that are under discussion. The military involvement is surely a coup in any manner of defining a coup.”
“However, we need to note that Section 212 of the Zimbabwe constitution empowers the military to protect Zimbabwe, its people, its national security and interests, and its territorial integrity, and to uphold the constitution,” said Mubita, adding: “Whether or not what is happening is a coup, soft coup or slow coup, SADC will definitely [have to] step in to ensure political stability and sustainable peace.”
Nandi-Ndaitwah reiterated the sentiments expressed by South African President Jacob Zuma early yesterday, of the
“hope that developments in Zimbabwe would not lead to unconstitutional changes of government as that would be contrary to both SADC and African Union positions.” Zuma, who is the current chairperson of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), has sent envoys to Angola to brief President Joao Lourenco on the Zimbabwean situation. Angola, under President Lourenco, is the chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics‚ Defence and Security.
Mubita said the developments in Zimbabwe “could be the end of the Mugabe ruling era but I doubt that it will be the end of the ZANU-PF ruling era”.
“The veterans of the liberation struggle are merely trying to protect the revolution from an army of political novices who have infiltrated the party for self-gain,” Mubita added.
Mubita further noted that fears of Zimbabwean nationals flocking to other SADC countries, at a time when many SADC member states are struggling economically, could be unfounded.
“On the contrary, if the conflict is well managed I believe Zimbabweans in the diaspora will be flocking back to Zimbabwe to rebuild their country and not the other way round. However, if the situation becomes violent, which I strongly doubt, then we might have an influx of Zimbabweans flocking into other countries,” said Mubita.
“It is unfortunate that events have turned out the way they have – however one should be pleased to note that the players in the situation are aware of the ramifications and implications of a coup in the region,” Mubita said.
The Zimbabwean military took over the country following days of war words between Mugabe, Zanu-PF and the military, since Mugabe dismissed Emmerson Mnangagwa as vice-president and subsequently expelled him from Zanu-PF.
On Monday the Commander of the Zimbabwe National Army‚ General Constantine Chiwenga‚ held a press conference where, flanked by his fellow military generals, he said: “We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution‚ the military will not hesitate to step in.”.
Zanu-PF issued a statement that the military should not get involved in politics, describing the military involvement in political discussions as “treason”. On Tuesday afternoon, the military rolled out tanks from the barracks and stationed them on the road from the army base to Harare city centre. On Wednesday morning they rolled them into Harare streets, and confined Mugabe to the presidential palace.