The name Zuma has been featuring a lot on the internet during the last couple of days – and by a quirk of fate, for two different reasons.
One reason is because the President of South Africa Jacob Zuma is attempting to broker a deal between the deposed President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, the one time anti-colonial hero but subsequent despotic dictator, and the military leaders of the de facto Coup d’Etat which has shaken Mugabe and his much disliked Machiavellian second wife Grace from power.
However space aficionados will also know that ZUMA is the codename of a military mission to be imminently launched into low Earth orbit by a Falcon 9. Nobody knows anything about it except that it is a government satellite payload being carried and that Northrop Grumman is involved. This column has suggested that the flight’s main role may be a second stage landing attempt. We shall have to wait and see. One thing is for certain, the ZUMA mission is nothing to do with the South African President.
Update on 22 November 2017: The SpaceX ZUMA Falcon 9 launch has been delayed until December due to concerns over the operation and recovery of its payload shroud shells during a previous flight. Meanwhile, to the relief and jubilation of his people, Robert Mugabe, President of Zimbabwe, has formally resigned from his post – preferring this method of exit rather than risking impeachment. He is being replaced by the Mugabe’s former deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s wife Grace tried to usurp as Mugabe’s Presidential successor. It was Mnangagwa’s sacking and exile that triggered the coup which caused the couple’s downfall.
Comment by David Todd: Defenders of Britain’s colonial past in Africa sometimes joke that in their quest for freedom and independence, African revolutionaries had demanded the right to mismanage themselves. This satirical saying is definitely true of Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe. For, having helped free the Zimbabwean people from whites only rule when it was called Rhodesia, under President Robert Mugabe over the next 37 years the nation of Zimbabwe became an economic and social basket case. The Mubabe regime became infamous for its mismanagement of its economy leading to bankruptcy, a Weimar Republic-like hyper inflation, and 90% unemployment; for the ending of the rule of law with the regime’s corruption and land grabs; and for its ending of true democracy with many subject to political persecutions. Worse of all, Robert Mugabe was responsible for the mass murder of thousands of his opponents (especially in Matabeleland).
Whatever some commentators say, especially in the African Union, not all military coups are bad.