Amanda Watson, AFP & ANA
19 minute read
15 Nov 2017
3:00 pm

Zimbabweans elated but cautious as Mugabe flounders

Amanda Watson, AFP & ANA

On Harare’s streets, many expressed amazement and delight Wednesday that President Robert Mugabe’s long reign may be coming to a close, but people also admitted the future looked unstable.

Mugabe, 93, has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980 — longer than many can remember — and the sudden move against him by the military left some hoping that his repressive regime would soon fall.

“We are happy with what has been done,” Keresenzia Moyo, 65, a housewife told AFP after visiting a hospital in the capital.

“We needed change. Our situation has been pathetic. The economy has been in the doldrums for a very long time.

“What is good is that this has happened at the top and it is not affecting us people on the ground. People could be killing each other.”

Moyo said that she was not against Mugabe being allowed safe passage out of the country — despite his tenure being marked by brutal repression of dissent, corruption and election vote-rigging.

Mugabe, who is under house arrest after the military took control, led Zimbabwe to independence.

But his decades in power have turned a country once known as the breadbasket of Africa for its bountiful produce, into an economic basket case where many go hungry.

“What we want is for our children to be able to get jobs and live a normal happy life,” Moyo said.

“We want to have food on the table, not one side having everything and others dying of hunger. Mugabe was once a good person but he lost it. Now we need a fresh start.”

– ‘We need some kind of direction’ –

Zimbabwe’s military has denied staging a coup, saying Mugabe was still president.

“We don’t know what this all means and we don’t know what to do,” student Karen Mvelani, 21, told AFP.

“We need some kind of direction on where we are heading.”

The visible impact of the momentous political upheaval was limited in Harare, with many people shopping at street markets, catching mini-buses to work or lining up outside banks as normal.

The country’s economic crisis has caused a severe cash shortage and sharply rising prices, for which many Zimbabweans blame Mugabe.

“He was a liability to the country because he was focusing on his leadership, he was a dictator,” said Tafadzwa Masango, a 35-year-old unemployed man.

“Our economic situation has deteriorated every day — no employment, no jobs,” he said. “We hope for a better Zimbabwe after the Mugabe era.

“We feel very happy. It is now his time to go.”

Mugabe sacked vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa last week, seemingly provoking the intervention of the military, which reportedly opposed First Lady Grace Mugabe’s emergence as the likely next president.

Precious Shumba, director of Harare Residents Trust action group, said Zimbabwe was entering “a new phase”.

“Now at least we break with the past,” she said. “My wish is that they immediately announce a transitional government and state clearly when the country will have the next elections.

“We need a transitional government to rid the country of the toxic politics of patronage, corruption and nepotism.”

Earlier

A President held incommunicado, arrests of “criminals”, and an army General in charge: If it walks, talks, and smells like a coup d’état, despite Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Constantino Chiwenga’s stoutest protestations to the contrary, it’s probably a coup d’état.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) 2016 document titled Chapter Nine: Sub-Saharan Africa, The Military Balance, found the Zimbabwean defence force to consist of 29 000 army regulars, with a 4 000-strong air force and 21 800 people in a paramilitary role.

“However, Zimbabwe’s limited quantitative and qualitative military capabilities have eroded further due to economic problems. China has been the only source of defence equipment for the country’s limited number of procurements,” stated the IISS.

“Both the EU and the US have arms embargoes in place which, the air-force commander acknowledged, have reduced air-force readiness.”

With the Southern African Development Community (SADC) the only legal option for the continent to deal with the Zimbabwe problem should it go further south, it’s unlikely Zimbabwe could withstand a protracted assault by SADC forces from Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Angola among others.

Still, unconfirmed reports suggested that Zimbabwe appeared to have flexed its sovereignty by thumbing its nose at President Jacob Zuma’s SADC by allegedly turning back his delegation consisting of Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and Minister of State Security advocate Bongani Bongo to Zimbabwe, who were supposed to meet with President Robert Mugabe and the Zimbabwean Defence Force.

Presidency spokesperson Dr Bongani Ngqulunga did not respond to repeated attempts for comment.

In 2014 DefenceWeb wrote the Zimbabwean military was believed “to have some of the most adept and well-trained soldiers in Africa, partly as a result of their training from a variety of different international armies.”

“After independence the armed forces were trained by the British and since then the government has relied heavily on training programmes as offered through China and North Korea,” noted DefenceWeb.

It found further Zimbabwe was facing a crisis with experienced veterans leaving due to age.

“Another factor hampering the army’s development is the prevalence of HIV/AIDS through its ranks. Zimbabwe’s military is also hampered by the country’s weak economy; as such wage issues often plague the armed forces,” it stated.

Derek Matyszak, an ISS senior research consultant based in Harare said on Wednesday that the military had assumed control of key buildings and installations such as the broadcasting service and the airport.

“What the military are saying is that there has not been a coup in Zimbabwe,” said Matyszak.

“On Monday the commander of the defence forces issued a statement saying the military is bound by the constitution to protect the country and then making a common conflation between State and the ruling Zanu-PF party. He went on to say that when Zanu-PF as a political party was under threat, that places the country under threat and the military has a duty to intervene.”

Matyszak said there was information the key leaders of the “G40” political faction may have been arrested.

The G40 is believed to consist of Grace Mugabe, ZanuPF national youth league president Kudzai Chipanga, national police commissioner Augustine Chihuri, minister of higher and tertiary education professor Jonathan Moyo, minister of environment, water and climate Saviour Kasukuwere and finance minister Ignatius Chombo.

Chiwenga had earlier criticised Mugabe for firing vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, believed to be Garace Mugabe’s closest opposition to taking over as president.

It is understood Chiwenga’s self-declared mission had by yesterday afternoon netted Deputy Director Central Intelligence Organisation Albert Ngulube, Chipanga, and Chihuri.

Zimbabwe Communist Party secretary general Ngqabutho Mabhena confirmed Chipanga had been arrested and told The Citizen the army was patrolling Harare’s streets.

“The military has basically taken over,” said Mabhena.

“It doesn’t concern us we have not heard from President Mugabe yet. However, the failure to resolve the succession question in Zanu-PF has created these conditions where the military has taken over.”

Chiwenga’s spokesperson Major General Sibusiso Moyo said on the State broadcaster yesterday the military was “only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice.”

“As soon as we have accomplished our mission we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.”

Mabhena called for all Zimbabweans to work together to return to Constitutional rule.

Ex VP Mnangagwa arrives in Harare to take control of govt

Dismissed former Zimbabwean Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa arrived in Harare on Wednesday to take control of the country’s government.


Mnangagwa, known as “The Crocodile”, was sacked last week amid a row over leadership in the ruling Zanu PF Part of Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe. Mnangagwa, a veteran of the country’s liberation struggle against white domination, fled to South Africa after death threats.

Zimbabwe’s military has seized control of state television and says is acting against “criminals” surrounding 93-year-old Mugabe but that the president and his family were safe. Major General S.B. Moyo the actions of the country’s defence forces were not a coup. Soldiers, tanks and armoured vehicles are in Harare.

ALSO READ: EFF: SA must give Mugabe political asylum

Events have unfolded after the head of the defence forces, General Constantino Chiwenga, warned on Monday that the army would take “drastic action” if factions in Zanu PF did not stop purges against party members with military backgrounds. Zanu PF issued a statement calling Chiwenga’s comments treason.

Chiwenga spoke after the “G40” faction in Zanu PF, which supports Mugabe’s wife Grace for succession, promised to purge all allies believed to be supporting the Lacoste faction, which is said to be sympathetic to Mnangagwa.

Earlier:

Army takes over Zimbabwe: What we know

Zimbabwe is under the control of the military two days after its army chief warned President Robert Mugabe against purging the ruling party’s senior ranks.

Analysts say it appears to be the climax of a power struggle between liberation-era figures loyal to ousted vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa and forces faithful to First Lady Grace Mugabe, who is seen as vying to succeed her 93-year-old husband.

Here is what we know:

– Military in control –

Armoured personnel carriers and troops were deployed onto roads leading towards Harare on Tuesday, a day after army chief General Constantino Chiwenga warned the military may intervene after Mugabe fired Mnangagwa last week.

Mnangagwa was popular with security forces but had repeatedly clashed with Grace, 52, a political novice who is believed to have alarmed many senior army commanders with her open posturing and ambition.

It became clear after nightfall that the manoeuvres were not routine when the armoured vehicles took up positions outside key sites of power in the capital.

Shortly afterwards, a senior army officer, flanked by an air force commander, made a late night address on the ZBC state broadcaster after having apparently taken over the station’s output.

They denied staging a coup, saying they were targeting “criminals” close to the president. Initial reports suggest key Grace ally and leader of the ruling ZANU-PF party youth league Kudzai Chipanga is among those detained.

– First family under siege? –

During the late-night broadcast, the two uniformed commanders insisted that Mugabe was not under arrest.

“We wish to assure the nation that his excellency the president… and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed,” Major General Sibusiso Moyo said, reading out a prepared statement.

“We are only targeting criminals around him… this is not a military takeover of government.”

The First Family have not been seen since the start of the unrest and prolonged gunfire was heard near Mugabe’s private residence in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The South African government said on Wednesday that President Jacob Zuma had spoken to Mugabe who confirmed that he was “confined to his home” — but otherwise fine.

– The world responds –

President of regional heavyweight South Africa Jacob Zuma issued a statement calling for Zimbabwe to avoid “unconstitutional changes of government” and “urged the Zimbabwean Defence Force to ensure… the maintenance of peace and security”.

Pretoria also announced it was sending its defence and intelligence ministers to Zimbabwe on behalf of the southern African regional bloc to meet army chiefs and Mugabe.

The European Union called on “all the relevant players to move from confrontation to dialogue.”

ALSO READ: What Malema and other SA politicians are saying about Zimbabwe

The United States said its embassy would be closed to the public on Wednesday and called on its citizens in the country to “shelter in place”.

Britain issued a special travel alert to call on its citizens to “avoid political activity”, warning “the authorities have sometimes used force to suppress demonstrations”.

– The days ahead –

The army’s dramatic seizure of power from the ailing liberation leader turned autocrat has stunned the nation and plunged it into uncertainty.

Mnangagwa has reportedly left South Africa by plane. If so, it could be that he may return to Zimbabwe to try to broker a resolution.

However South Africa’s warning — together with its dispatch of envoys — could complicate any efforts to hand power to an unelected civilian caretaker government.

An extraordinary meeting of the ruling ZANU-PF party intended to smooth party divisions was scheduled for next month but this has now been thrown into doubt.

Earlier:

Mugabe under house arrest as military takes control

Zimbabwe’s military was in control of the country on Wednesday as President Robert Mugabe said he was under house arrest, although generals denied staging a coup.

Mugabe’s decades-long grip on power appeared to be fading as military vehicles blocked roads outside the parliament in Harare and senior soldiers delivered a late-night television address to the nation.

“The president… and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed,” Major General Sibusiso Moyo said, slowly reading out a statement.

“We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes… As soon as we have accomplished our mission we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.”

Moyo said: “This is not a military takeover of government”.

But the generals’ actions posed a major challenge to the 93-year-old Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980.

Neighbouring South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, one of Mugabe’s closest allies, said he had spoken to the veteran leader by telephone.

Mugabe “indicated that he was confined to his home but said that he was fine,” the South African government said in a statement that called for calm and restraint.

ALSO READ: ‘I’m fine,’ a confined Mugabe tells Zuma in telephone conversation

Tensions between Mugabe and the military establishment, which has long helped prop up his authoritarian rule, erupted in public over recent weeks.

The ruling ZANU-PF party on Tuesday accused army chief General Constantino Chiwenga of “treasonable conduct” after he criticised Mugabe for sacking vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Government silence 

Mnangagwa’s dismissal left Mugabe’s wife Grace, 52, in prime position to succeed her husband as the next president — a succession strongly opposed by senior ranks in the military.

As the situation deteriorated overnight, prolonged gunfire was heard near Mugabe’s private residence.

On Wednesday, the TV state broadcaster played liberation struggle songs, while many citizens in Harare shopped at markets, drove to work or queued outside banks despite the turmoil.

The US embassy warned its citizens in the country to “shelter in place” due to “ongoing political uncertainty”.

South Africa urged Zimbabwe to resist any “unconstitutional changes” of government, and said it was sending envoys to Harare on behalf of the SADC bloc of southern African nations to help resolve the impasse.

President Mugabe and Grace made no public comment and their exact whereabouts was not known, while government and army spokesmen were not available to comment.

“The government’s silence on the military deployments seem to confirm that President Mugabe has lost control of the situation,” Robert Besseling, of the London-based EXX Africa risk consultancy, said.

Mugabe is the world’s oldest head of state, but his poor health has fuelled a bitter succession battle as potential replacements jockey for position.

In speeches this year, Mugabe has often slurred his words, mumbled and paused for long periods.

His lengthy rule has been marked by brutal repression of dissent, mass emigration, vote-rigging and economic collapse since land reforms in 2000.

Grace’s ambitions

Speculation has been rife in Harare that Mugabe had sought to remove army chief Chiwenga, who is seen as an ally of ousted Mnangagwa.

Mnangagwa, 75, was previously one of Mugabe’s most loyal lieutenants, having worked alongside him for decades.

Earlier this year Zimbabwe was gripped by a bizarre spat between Grace and Mnangagwa that included an alleged ice-cream poisoning incident that laid bare the pair’s rivalry.

Grace Mugabe — 41 years younger than her husband — has become increasingly active in public life in what many say was a process to help her eventually take the top job.

ALSO READ: Zuma worried about Zimbabwe after army takes control of Harare

She was granted diplomatic immunity in South Africa in August after she allegedly assaulted a model at an expensive Johannesburg hotel where the couple’s two sons were staying.

As the economy collapsed since 2000, Zimbabwe was engulfed by hyperinflation and was forced to abandon its own currency in 2009 in favour of the US dollar.

The country, which has an unemployment rate of over 90 percent, is due to hold elections next year with Mugabe pledging to stand for office again.

-AFP

Earlier:

Regional organisations must prevent Zimbabwe implosion, says expert

It is imperative that South Africa, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) take immediate action to prevent Zimbabwe imploding,” said Aditi Lalbahadur, the South African Institute of International Affairs’ (SAIIA) Foreign Policy Programme Manager.

“Zimbabwe is a very important neighbour to South Africa historically, politically and economically, so it is understandable that the government is keeping a close eye on developments to the north,” Lalbahadur told the African News Agency (ANA) during a Wednesday interview.

South Africa, as the chair of SADC, will probably call an urgent extraordinary meeting in the near future to discuss developments and to decide what action to take, she explained.

The foreign policy expert was referring to the Zimbabwe military’s take-over of the country in what some have labelled a coup.

The take-over followed Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s sacking of former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week in what was interpreted as an attempt to purge the ruling Zanu-PF party of members deemed to be political opponents of Mugabe’s wife Grace who has long harboured ambitions to take over the vice presidency according to analysts.

WATCH: When younger, passionate Mugabe praised fair democracy, transfer of power

“What is critical is the impact of the time frame in regards to how the situation unfolds,” explained Lalbahadur.

The immediate concern is that the situation doesn’t escalate into all-out violence.

“The short-to-medium term will result in a change of government, not necessarily of political parties, but within Zanu-PF as it is clear that Grace Mugabe’s G40 faction are no longer in charge,” said Lalbahadur.

How peacefully this short term scenario plays out depends to some extent on the response of the Zanu-PF youth league, which supports the G40 faction.

The league has dared the military to take further action – as threatened by the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Force (ZDF) Constantino Chiwenga who is behind the military take-over – should the political purges continue.

“The longer term implication is how the new government faction will engage with the region, South Africa, the rest of the world but most importantly Zimbabweans,” Lalbahadur explained to ANA.

As to how the SADC will deal with the issue also remains to be seen as the region is not accustomed to military coups, with the exception of Lesotho.

“South Africa isn’t interested in having to send troops to Zimbabwe and in general Pretoria, backed by Mozambique and Botswana, has tended to be more conciliatory in settling regional disputes,” said the foreign policy expert.

In contrast, Angola and Namibia have tended to be more militaristic.

According to Lalbahadur the situation is very fluid and how it eventually plays out will be seen over the next few days and weeks.

 – ANA

Earlier:

SA opposition calls for immediate free and fair elections in Zim

The leader of the opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) has called for Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe to step down and for free and fair elections to be held immediately.

The Zimbabwean military has taken control of the capital Harare as well as state broadcasters, fuelling speculation of a coup against 93-year-old Mugabe. The military has said it is acting against “criminals” surrounding the ageing leader but a military spokesman has denied that this amounted to a coup.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said on Wednesday: “The current instability in Zimbabwe must be a cause for concern for all African countries who stand for democracy on the continent. According to reports, the Zimbabwean Defence Force has moved into the country’s capital, Harare, to ‘target criminals’ aligned to President Robert Mugabe – the first signs of what appears to be a military coup”.

WATCH: Four times Grace Mugabe slammed Mnangagwa in scathing speeches

“We therefore call for fresh elections to be held in Zimbabwe as soon as practically possible, and for Robert Mugabe to immediately resign as President of Zimbabwe. This will allow the people of Zimbabwe to choose a new direction for their country, and to free themselves from the tyrannical reign of Robert Mugabe and his Zanu-PF. True democracy is adhering to the will of the people, not the internal politics and arrangements of liberation movements,” Maimane said in a statement.

He also urged South African Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane to brief the South African public on the extent of the crisis in Zimbabwe, including what action the South African government will take.

“While the involvement of the military in politics is never to be celebrated, it must be noted that the original sin in the sad collapse of Zimbabwe was the South African government’s failure, under President (Thabo) Mbeki, to stand up for democracy and enforce the results of the 2008 election. Allowing Mr Mugabe to remain in office even after losing an election clearly sowed the seeds for what we are seeing today.”

These latest events followed Mugabe’s decision to fire his Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week in an ongoing struggle for party leadership within the ruling ZANU-PF.

ANA

Earlier:

Mugabe to step down, Grace given safe haven – security source

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has negotiated with the country’s military for his wife Grace to leave the country and obtain “safe haven”, possibly in neighbouring South Africa, in return for him giving up power, a security source told African News Agency on Wednesday, adding that the 93-year-old head of state will announce his departure at a press conference on Thursday.

“Mugabe has negotiated for Grace to leave the country while he prepares to step down. Press conference tomorrow afternoon. Soldiers indeed have the president and his presidential guard under siege. Zimbabweans are urged to stay away from the CBD tomorrow,” the source said.

Zimbabwe’s military has seized control of Harare and said it is acting against “criminals” surrounding 93-year-old Mugabe. But a military spokesman has denied this is a coup.

ALSO READ: This is what you think of the situation in Zimbabwe

Events have unfolded after the head of the defence forces, General Constantino Chiwenga, warned the army would take “drastic action” if factions in the ruling Zanu PF did not stop purges against party members with military backgrounds.

This followed last week’s sacking of war veteran Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa amid a struggle for party leadership with Mugabe’s wife Grace, who is supported by the youthful “G40” party faction. Mnangagwa fled to South Africa but is rumoured to have returned to Zimbabwe on Wednesday to take control of government.

– ANA  

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