Zimbabwe coup: Is this a way out for Africa's bread basket?

As the fate of Zimbabwe's 93-year-old dictator Robert Mugabe remains uncertain, the turmoil was best summed up by Winston Churchill's grandson Sir Nicholas Soames who said: 'If it is not a coup then it is certainly its first cousin.'

The Tory MP has been a longstanding advocate of the plight of the repressed Zimbabwean people as the one-time jewel of Africa became an economic bread basket – father Christopher was the last governor of Southern Rhodesia and oversaw Mugabe’s accession to power following independence.

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Yet, while Mugabe’s decades-long dictatorship, ritual rigging of elections and brutal intolerance of opponents became a stain on the world’s conscience, not least because of the reluctance of post-apartheid South Africa to exert its influence, the current upheaval does, in fact, offer a way out for this deeply troubled country.

Though the fear is that one brutal dictator will be replaced by another in what appears to be a power struggle, it can only be hoped that the military takeover is only a temporary one; there are no guarantees that it will be the precursor to free and democratic elections – the ultimate objective – so Zimbabwe can, once again, become a powerhouse for southern Africa.

Time will tell – diplomatic efforts by world leaders need more purpose than previous endeavours – and a way will need to be found to support those brave people who want to be liberated from the living hell that they have endured for so long.