Since we have previously commented here about events in Zimbabwe it seems only right to say something about the coup, or rather the attempted “correction”, that has just taken place in Harare.
1] The situation is complicated and fast moving. There is no certainty about either what has happened or about what will happen. That said, the following thoughts suggest themselves
2] There is no doubt that Bob had it coming. In his first years in power he showed that he had the capacity to govern Zimbabwe well. He could have turned Zimbabwe into a beacon of prosperity and hope in central Africa. And he was some of the way to doing this, as was widely admitted by quite conservative whites in South Africa when I was there for about six months in 1989. There was real hope in the air. Bob’s failure was then one pure corruption. He has brought needless misery on the people of Zimbabwe. His fall will be fully deserved.
3] However, coups are a bad business. There have been far too many of them in Africa since the sixties. They may save a country from a tyrant as in this case, but they always set a bad example. Apart from all the other obvious moral,political, and legal considerations investors do not like seeing tanks on the streets.
4] The auguries for the future of Zimbabwe may be better than they were before recent events, but they are still not good. Well informed observers are expressing doubts about the motives and characters of those who are trying to depose Mugabe. Their record is unimpressive, and our jubilation about their efforts should, consequently, be muted.
5] The best hope now is for a rapid return to legality, and for free and fair elections to take place. But here the matter becomes unusually complicated. Bob has unexpectedly “won” elections in the past. He is the wiliest old fox in the business, and as of this moment it doesn’t look as if he wants to go quietly.
6] The people of Zimbabwe have suffered enough. In the long run the only way in which Zimbabwe can release its huge economic potential is through the rule of law, democratic institutions, and private enterprise. All other proposals will end in further disaster and humiliation. The misrule of Robert Mugabe will not have been completely wasted if it teaches this lesson.