Having spent more than three years in Zimbabwe, I did some work as a freelance with the Herald newspaper, the largest daily of the land of Mugabe. The recent coup, which is still evolving and unfolding, forced me to reflect on what has gone wrong to this beautiful heaven on earth and its soft spoken and docile people. Despite the fact that Zimbabwe-Pakistan enjoys some very cordial relations, it does not come on our radar screens due to our approach towards Southern Africa.

Without going into history of Zimbabwe, I would rather comment on my assessment on its geopolitical landscape, the state of economy and the divided polity, which resulted in forcing Military to take charge and save the state from further chaos. Lying immediately to the north of South Africa, Zimbabwe is the oldest civilization in Southern Africa or SADC (South African Development Community) region. Two of its dominant communities are Shona from the north and Ndebele from the South and South west. Incidentally it is one of the first countries in the region who fought and won from British Colonial rule after a prolonged war of independence lasting almost two decades, culminating in 1980.The democratic dispensation of Zimbabwe is also highly influenced by freedom fighters whose militant wings ZIPRA (Zimbabwe People’s Revolutionary Army) and ZANLA (Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army) belonging to two different factions were united by Robert Mugabe after the liberation of Zimbabwe into one army. Mugabe’s political party who controlled the military wings as well is ZANU (PF) or Zimbabwe African National Union, Patriotic Front, which remained unchallenged till the economic crises of 2008-09.

While Pakistani’s were trying to relate Zimbabwe coup to our own situation, it may be appreciated that ZANU (PF) has always been dominated by freedom fighters and veterans and still more than 60% of its cadre comes from military officers. You can still fight elections as a serving officer, resign, fight elections, if you win, join the assembly, if you lose, you can rejoin the service by filing an application.

Unlike other SADC states, Zimbabwe has displayed resistance to her old colonial masters the British, no wonder it has been on the receiving end of sanctions by the west.

The economic collapse of 2008-09 saw Zimbabwean currency losing its value; actually you could only buy a kilogramme of potatoes with one million Zimbabwean dollars. With Chinese help and politico economic reforms Zimbabwe adopted US dollar as its state currency and also allowed South African Rand for trade in Zimbabwe. A National unity Government brokered by the West and SADC was also formed to include Mr Tsvangirai’s MDC (Movement for Democratic Change). The period from 2011 to 2015 saw the economic growth and political stability; however the power struggle within ZANU (PF) between President Mugabe’s wife Grace Mugabe (who happens to be 40 years younger than Mugabe) and the old guard led by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa started tearing apart the ruling party.

Mismanagement, cronyism and corruption permeated into the governance system and Grace Mugabe was able to oust some old guards from power including firing of Mnangagwa last month. Mnangagwa has been a Mugabe loyalist since ages and was being groomed as his successor. Having served as the Intelligence Chief as well as defence minister, Mnangawa has enjoyed the confidence and patronage of strong military command of ZDF (Zimbabwe Defence Forces).No wonder the Commander of ZDF, General Constantine Chiwenga, reacted sharply on sacking of Vice president Mnangagwa. The soft coup, where no human life was lost is also being attributed to efficiency of ZDF and the way people have reacted to ouster of Grace Mugabe, who reportedly has fled to neighboring Namibia.

Another contender for power is the Ex Vice President Madam Joice Mujuru, who was also ousted by Grace Mugabe few years ago and is widely respected by people of Zimbabwe.

My take on future of Zimbabwe can be three scenarios;

Scenario one; the smooth change over under the gaze of ZDF takes place and Emmerson Mnangagwa becomes the interim president before elections in 2018.A unity government including Mnangagwa as president, Joice Mujuru of breakaway faction of ZANU and Tsvangirai of MDC are also accommodated by a brokered deal by SADC, the west and China and Zimbabwe gains political stability and economic progress. The only challenge would be to look after Bob (Robert Mugabe),who despite his frail health and political fall, still remains the father of the nation. Could SADC arrange for an honourable place for Mugabe in his last days?

Scenario two; the simmering currents in ZANU (PF) and the purge by military adversely affect the political stability and the Ndebele-Shona fault line is exploited by anti- Zimbabwe forces arrayed by the west and some of their surrogates in SADC region. China-US/UK contest intensifies and a prolonged period of chaos and civil war engulfs Zimbabwe. This could be most unfortunate as this beautiful land of Victoria fall, Kariba lake and Hwange National Park has not seen bloodshed in last three decades due to polite nature of its people, incidentally Zimbabwe is the most educated nation in Africa with 92% education.

Scenario three; the military takeover is prolonged and General Constantine Chiwenga becomes the strong man of Zimbabwe, however he will have to win the support of SADC, China and the western block.

Having seen this beautiful land with a fine weather and pleasant people, I sincerely prey for a smooth transition of power, so that the proud Zimbabweans get back to their normal lives and prosper like other peaceful nations in Africa. Pakistan has enjoyed some very good relations and has helped train Zimbabwean Air Force (under the dynamic Air Marshal Azim Daudpota) and help raise their National Defence University by providing instructors. Daudpota had the singular honour to be the first Air Chief of Air Force of Zimbabwe. I am also lucky to be part of a military family, whose husband became the first instructor in National Defence College of Zimbabwe.

My own experience with Zimbabwe is of profound love for its land and people and I sincerely hope that the great nation of Zimbabwe comes out of this crisis with flying colours and prosperity. Despite my respect for President Mugabe, I wish he could have gracefully parted with power like Nelson Mandela.