PRC wins with colonialism in Africa. Gregory Copley, Defense & Foreign Affairs.

Dec 18, 2017, 01:00 AM

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PRC wins with colonialism in Africa. Gregory Copley, Defense & Foreign Affairs.

How Beijing Handles Change in Africa
Analysis. By GIS/Defense & Foreign Affairs Staff. The removal from office of 93-year-old Robert Mugabe as President of Zimbabwe on November 13, 2017, was the first significant engagement by the Government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the deliberate change of an African Government outside the election processes since the PRC assumed suzerainty over much of the Continent during the past five years.
It was particularly significant because Robert Mugabe was Beijing’s first successful proxy client of the modern age in Africa, when, as an already committed marxist, he in-herited the mantle of leadership of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) when he replaced the founder, Ndabaningi Sithole in 1969. As history would show, ZANU’s later success in winning power, electorally, in Zimbabwe-Rhodesia on independence was largely due to the fact that ZANU was an ethnically Shona-dominated party, where-as its opponent, ZAPU (Zimbabwe African Peoples’ Union), was dominated by Ndbeles. The Shona population significantly outnumbers the Ndebele in then as [executive] Pres-ident in 1987. So Beijing’s agreement to ease Mugabe from office was not given lightly. Indeed, the action was only precipitated by Pres. Mugabe himself, with his attempt to install his wife, Grace Mugabe, 52, as his successor.
Pres. Mugabe himself knew that this was a divisive move, greatly opposed by the elders of the ZANU movement: the “veterans” of the independence war. Beijing also knew that Grace Mugabe, who, despite having support from some of the younger elements of ZANU-PF, was unlikely to succeed in office once she attained it. The elders and veter-ans controlled the loyalty of the Armed Forces. Indeed, it was Robert Mugabe’s under-standing of this which made him announce the dismissal of his Vice-President and the veterans’ contender for office, Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, after Zimbabwe Armed the country, but pre-independence momentum was largely seen to be with ZAPU, which had better funding and arming (from the USSR).
The fact that ZANU was seen, pre-independence, as less likely of winning victory meant that it had been open to PRC support, given that the Soviet Union was already commit-ted to supporting ZAPU.
But Mugabe remained loyal to the PRC throughout his leadership of Zimbabwe, first as Prime Minister (under a non-executive President) in 1980, and Forces Commander, Gen. Constantino Guveya Dominic Nyikadzino Chiwenga, a known supporter of the Vice-President, had just departed for an official visit to Beijing.
The meetings which Gen. Chiwenga had in Beijing on November 8-10, 2017, were de-cisive in Beijing’s support for the removal of Pres. Mugabe, even as the President or-dered the arrest of Chiwenga on his return from Beijing. But the power base — the Armed Forces and Intelligence services — had already moved behind Mnangagwa (with Chiwenga’s support), so such an arrest was never able to be achieved.
The removal, then, of Pres. Mugabe on the night of November 13, 2017, had all the earmarks of a military coup — something which would have drawn the immediate ejec-tion of Zimbabwe from the African Union — but was quickly transformed into a parlia-mentary incident leading to the resignation of the President, and the formal emplace-ment of Mr Mnangagwa as President, to serve the remainder of Pres. Mugabe’s term in office.
There is little doubt that this process was discussed by Gen. Chiwenga with the very senior PRC officials with whom he met. And there is little doubt that Beijing, having con-sidered Mugabe’s age, had also considered what criteria had to be met in the transition phase. The implementation may have been rapid, but the p...