Thursday 6 May 2021
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Douglass Rogers and the romantic episode of a dictator’s downfall

By Sankara Rawlings

Two Weeks In November: The Astonishing Untold Story of the Operation that Toppled Mugabe is a fast paced horrific real-life account and typical HBO blockbuster that provides never before seen insights and lifts the veil off the events that led to the dramatic ouster of long-time political hardliner, Robert Mugabe.
In this well researched page-turner, the White Zimbabwean writer and resident of the United States vividly lays bare the brutal effects of power hunger, the deadly efficiency of a threatened military Gen-eral and a ditched Vice President as well as the intrepid art of a veteran diplomat and the organizing prowess of intelligence opera-tives.
Its movement is dominated by expensive cars traversing opulent sub-urbs, an N$80 000 Louis Vuitton bag, expensive designer suits, guns and ultramodern communication technology and a bottle of whiskey.
It has all the hallmarks of a James Bond motion picture only that it is enacted between Zimbabwe and South Africa with events reverberat-ing from China through Dubai and back.
The writer brings to the fore of the mainstream narrative of what transpired prior to the abysmal fall of Mugabe’s three decade old autocracy, a surprising spin that is nothing but jaw-dropping that the Zimbabwean coup was orchestrated by an exiled white busi-ness man turned political fixer in South Africa in collaboration with a killer-spy who lives in a two bedroomed shack on the poverty stricken fringes of Harare.
It turns out that the spy had been sent to eliminate the Whiteman but ends up sharing a beer at which point a potent alliance is forged towards the fall of Mugabe, his dynastic ambitions and those of his minions.
It is a dangerously ironic combination.
A prominent human rights lawyer spooked by Mugabe’s henchmen into South African exile is also brought to the scene, forced by the grand scheme of things to collaborate with erstwhile boogeymen in whose hands he once suffered the most heinous forms of unimaginable torture.
The alliance is shaky and delicate but it sets the motion to what will be a watershed moment of historic proportions.
Yet it is firmly riveted to the equally treasonous objective to ef-fect regime change back in Zimbabwe.
What follows is a web of deception, intrigue and espionage which transmogrifies Rogers’ memoir into an unbelievable non-fiction fast moving action packed rollercoaster.
Rodgers pays meticulous attention to detail and through intermittent flashbacks is able to, with one grasp, conjure to the surface Zimba-bwe’s succession wrangles.
It is a brouhaha that catches into its lethal gridlock two Zanu PF factions, one led by Mugabe’s estranged wife, Grace (G40) and the other (Lacoste) by the stoic liberation godfather and second in com-mand now turned President, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Utilizing world-class descriptive skills laced by dark humor, Rodg-ers rightly captures into a microcosm, the macrocosmic picture of the brewing storm at whose end, only one faction was destined to rise to the helm and the other sent to the gutter.
A juxtaposition of events in Zimbabwe and South Africa creates an exciting tapestry characterized by the dramatic firing of Mnangagwa and his astonishing flight to SA with Mugabe’s baying spies in dead-ly hot-pursuit.
The book is a perfect epitome of a contemporary political thriller, a hell in a basket.
Prior to the ignoble flight to SA, Mnangagwa’s covertly poisoned at a rally.
He is airlifted to a top class SA hospital, comes back only to be fired, jumps the border and gets housed by a multinational security company in SA and waits for his astronomical rise back to the helm of the Presidency.
While this truly played out right in full glare of international press, but the underground clandestine operations of spies, exilic activists and a lawyer is one damning  last minute shocker that makes the book a must read.
But how does a single Central Intelligence operative, a lawyer and a political fixer actually instigate a coup and rewrite Zimbabwe’s en-tire history together with its population of a massive 16 million plus three million in the diaspora?
Rodgers recounts that what transpired were historical well-orchestrated underground workings of collaborative feats in which only the right pieces were moved just at about the right time, cov-ered by a veil of smoke and mirrors.
The coup plotters rope in the weight of a political giant and veter-an diplomat, Chriss Mutsvangwa. They woo to the conspiracy Zimbabwe’s military top brass and more spies, bringing them all within the strategic jukebox in which enemy works with enemy for the common goal, the common ultimate nemesis, Mugabe.
A bridge is erected between this network with the military and the coup is cooking.
These are all pieces on the political chess board whose moves were being cornered by one man, one faction and an irate first lady.
Rodgers provides detail of such magnitude   never before leaked to mainstream media which reduces the entire book into an impeccably researched account beyond the spectrum of common-place journalism.
Yet in certain instances, the writer’s creation of mood sounds sus-piciously deliberate, a writer’s attempt to add too much sauce to the broth to impress, to exaggerate, to sell.
He mishmashes what he observed with what he didn’t but got to be told or got to read but still is able to give a  credible historical memoir so thrilling it is almost unbelievable.
The book glorifies the coup and portrays the brilliance of Zimba-bwe’s military.
It pays homage to the deadly effect of its meticulous undertaking to save General Constantino Chiwenga from arrest at the airport in full view of citizens, arresting theentire police network and disarming them into the barracks.
The book erupts into the ecstasy of what followed through a treason-ous but daring Chiwenga press conference at which he warned that Mu-gabe had overstepped, that the military would roll tanks on the streets and pin down all “recalcitrant constitutional delinquents” G40 elements.
Meanwhile, Mutsvangwa’s diplomatic perspicacity and linguistic so-phistication sees himself launch against Jacob Zuma, who as the SADC top-gun is neutralized into tacitly letting things unfold unper-turbed, according to plan.
The AU is further sold some more smoke and mirrors, and buckles into accepting that the coup was after all not a coup, and from there, within 36 hours, the Zimbabwean mass is mobilized into millions to legitimate the entire festival of illegalities.
Mugabe resigns under protest.
Rogers has told the story of an African intrigue, one in which real military and political brilliance is brought to the fore of global attention from pockets of half celebrated Africa, and one which ought to be acknowledged, respected and put to its glorious place in the annals of history.
What follows after may as well not matter.
But what is apparent from the book is that Mugabe’s dynastic vision ended in a contemptible failure, having been buoyed by factional over-confidence but doomed by his military miscalculations.
Mugabe’ rule was prolonged by his knack to outfox and outlive his rivals, win the favour of the deadly guardians of the national amoury, yet the frivolity of political blunder, a blinded disregard of the real underpinnings of power and shifting of alliances became his undoing.

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