Did Robert Mugabe watch A Very British Coup?

Zimbabwe has been going through a rather strange political transition. Robert Mugabe has ruled that country since 1980 when his guerrilla force ZANU overthrew the white minority government of what was then called Rhodesia. Since then, his rule has become increasingly autocratic, corrupt, undemocratic, and brutal and it seemed like he, now 93 years old, was grooming his wife Grace to take over from him, and sacking his deputy head of state seemed to be a step in that direction

The military then intervened and placed him under house arrest in what would normally be called a coup. But unusual for a coup, they seemed to want Mugabe to bless his own ouster and so allowed him to meet with people and give speeches while steps were taken behind the scenes to quietly remove him. One such step was for his ruling party ZANU-PF to remove him as its leader, which they did yesterday. The next step was to schedule a TV broadcast yesterday in which Mugabe was expected to announce he was stepping down. But to everyone’s surprise, Mugabe did no such thing, and switched his speech at the last minute and said he would continue. It is not clear what is going to happen next.

This reminded me of that excellent 1988 British mini-series A Very British Coup in which a steelworker Harry Perkins becomes prime minister and proceeds to implement his progressive election manifesto. This causes consternation in the ruling oligarchy, and the intelligence services, acting on behalf of the elites, frames Perkins for bribery and arranges for him to give a televised speech announcing a face-saving resignation on the grounds of ill health. You can watch what happens in these short excerpts from the climax.

Part 1 is where Perkins is given the ultimatum.

Part 2 is where Perkins gives his televised speech.

Mugabe is no Perkins, not by a long shot. But the way he pulled off this stunt suggests to me that he has seen this show.


  1. Mark Dowd says

    Pretty thin reasoning. I’ve never even heard of the show, but I’ve definitely imagined situations like that before when coming up with stories. It’s not even an elaborate or deep subterfuge, just a basic double-cross. All you have to do is make and renege on one promise.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *