The Zimbabwean armed forces seized control of the capital Harare and detained president Robert Mugabe early on Wednesday morning. It is the result of a spiralling political crisis facing the regime, with rival factions of the ruling Zanu PF party jostling for power.
Mugabe fired vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa last week in an attempt to make way for his wife Grace Mugabe to succeed him. Mnangagwa, who fled Zimbabwe, has said that he will return.
Zimbabwean socialist Munya told Socialist Worker, “This is a crystalisation of a faction fight within the ruling class and reflects an economic crisis.
“This has significantly deteriorated in the last three weeks. There have been major price rises and some goods are not available.”
The Zimbabwean ruling class has been split on how to deal with the economic crisis.
The faction around Mnangagwa and the military that could be ascending to power wants full-blooded free market reforms. They also want to open Zimbabwe up to Western imperialist powers—including former colonial rulers Britain.
Munya explained, “Mugabe never fully accepted the neoliberal agenda. The Mnangagwa faction includes the former finance minister who worked closely with the International Monetary Fund.”
It’s likely that large sections of the ruling class and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) will rally around the new set up. Munya said, “The MDC elites are likely to be supportive of it because they also want more neoliberalism and a restoration of relations with the West.”
He added, “There’s a potential that the Mnangagwa, MDC elites and the military could be part of a national unity government. Ultimately they are also scared of the working class, because austerity could lead to revolts.”
The British government gloated about the potential downfall of Mugabe as news of the coup came in. Britain’s rulers have never been able to accept that the national liberation movement led by Mugabe gave British imperialism’s interests a kicking.
The International Socialist Movement, the Socialist Workers Party’s sister organisation, has condemned the military. “The leaders of the military had no problem with Mugabe’s dictatorial regime until it began to affect their interests,” it said.
“This is not about resorting democracy and human rights, it is about swapping one section of the dictatorial regime for another.
“It is a ‘palace coup’ in the real sense of the phrase”.
The working class will have to assert its own demands, not go along with different ruling factions. Munya said, “It’s unlikely that the working class will act independently because it has suffered defeats and the trade union bureaucracy is tied to the MDC elites.
“Mugabe’s wife was so unpopular so there is likely to be some support for what’s going on at least initially.”
But he warned, “This exposes the depths of the crisis in the economy, neoliberalism and austerity that the elite supports and it could see revolts. This is only the beginning.”