Considering Zimbabwe’s 2017 Coup: Causes, Consequences, Concepts

A faction of Zimbabwe’s ruling party and many soldiers removed the country’s 93 year-old president from power over party and polity during a few weeks of November 2017. The country’s military component of its security forces used a significant amount of force in this exercise, killing up to thirty police officers who were on the losing side of the factional battle. Yet the word ‘coup’ has been avoided as much as possible by parties to it, including regional and continental powers – and even the Roman Catholic church, its American magazine opining it was an ‘unexpected but peaceful transition’.

The reluctance to call this coup by its name may indicate unique characteristics – it may walk like a duck and therefore is one, but there are many varieties of that bird – suggesting important shifts in the dialectic of consent and coercion across Africa’s political realm in the past few decades. Part of Professor Moore’s tenure at STIAS will be devoted to a theoretical and historically comparative analysis of coups, to situate Zimbabwe’s. He will also be occupied on the empirical side of fulfilling a Zed Books/African Arguments contract to write a book on the causes and consequences of this particular ‘militarily assisted transition’, which in itself deserves the detailed research that he will have undertaken in Zimbabwe before this fellowship.

Project leader(s):
  • David Moore (Department of Anthropology & Development Studies, University of Johannesburg)

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