We noted yesterday that Zimbabwe military commander, General Constantino Chiwenga, said on state television that he was not launching a military coup, while Mugabe and his family were safe, they were targeting criminals around the Mugabe family and the situation will return to normal soon. Well, that changed fast and with events fluid, the latest from Zimbabwe is that the army is in control of the country, and holding president Mugabe "for his own safety", while it was removing “criminals” around him such as the country's finance minster.
Overnight, an army spokesman said on state television that Mugabe and his family were being held in a “safe and secure place” while soldiers carried out the operation in Harare, which followed a day of high tension between the army’s commander, General Constantino Chiwenga, and Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF. Below is the text of an address made by Zimbabwe Major General SB Moyo, Chief of Staff Logistics, on national television after the military seized power:
We wish to assure the nation that His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, and commander in chief of Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Comrade RG Mugabe, and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed.
We are 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. To the civil servants, as you are aware, there is a plan by the same people to influence the current purging that is taking place in the political sphere to the civil service. We are against that act of injustice and we intend to protect every one of you against that.
To the judiciary, the measures underway are intended to assure that as an independent arm of the state you are able to exercise your independent authority without fear of being obstructed.
According to the FT, witnesses in Harare said soldiers remained on guard outside the state TV building on Wednesday morning, and were manning a checkpoint at the airport where flights were running normally. Army vehicles blocked off a handful of streets in the city centre. State television and radio played music as normal broadcasting was suspended.
Here is a summary of the latest events from a range of sources:
Bloomberg reports that Mugabe is said to be “Preparing to Step Down” and negotiating for his wife Grace to leave the African nation”, citing unconfirmed reports from News24.
News24 is reporting that Zimbabwe universities have advised students to stay at home.
Zimbabwean universities advised students to stay at home on Wednesday…On Wednesday morning, the University of Zimbabwe said in a texted message to students that exams scheduled for today had been deferred until further notice. This comes as the military, rolling in tankers and heavily armed cordoned off access roads to parliament, state radio stations and the broadcasting center among other key areas. "Please note that exams that were supposed to be written today have been deferred until further notice. I will keep you posted on any other developments as we assess the situation on the ground," the University of Zimbabwe told students.
The Women’s University in Africa, situated near the Support Unit para-military base, which was said to be cordoned off, also told students not to come for lectures until the situation had improved. Examinations at the university had not yet started. "As a result of the ongoing political uncertainty throughout the night and in consultation with the US Embassy and the actions of other organisations, the Women’s University in Africa will remain closed on Wednesday, 15 November 2017 November 15 2017," the university said.
AP reports that the army is holding Mugabe and his wife in custody and controls the capital, Harare.
Zimbabwe’s army said Wednesday it has President Robert Mugabe and his wife in custody and is securing government offices and patrolling the capital’s streets following a night of unrest that included a military takeover of the state broadcaster. The night’s action triggered speculation of a coup, but the military’s supporters praised it as a “bloodless correction.” Armed soldiers in armored personnel carriers stationed themselves at key points in Harare, while Zimbabweans formed long lines at banks in order to draw the limited cash available, a routine chore in the country’s ongoing financial crisis. People looked at their phones to read about the army takeover and others went to work or to shops.
Zimbabwe’s privately-owned NewsDay is reporting several members of the Zanu-PF ruling party have been detained by the army, according to News24.
Zimbabwe's privately-owned NewsDay is saying that at least three leading figures in the Generation 40 (G40) faction of Zanu-PF who had been reportedly fomenting chaos in the ruling party were picked up in the early hours of Wednesday following the intervention of the country's Defence Forces. Although the reports remain unconfirmed at the moment, indications are that Finance minister Ignatius Chombo (Zanu PF's secretary for administration), national commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo were arrested in raids at their respective homes. Moyo is believed to have been the brains behind the G40 faction that has reportedly been masterminding the expulsion of liberation war heroes in ZANU-PF, including the recent sacking of former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the report says.
South African President Jacob Zuma released a “Statement On The Unfolding Events In The Republic Of Zimbabwe” calling for a return to the status quo.
President Jacob Zuma, on behalf of SADC, has noted with great concern the unfolding political situation in the Republic of Zimbabwe. President Zuma has called for calm and restraint and has expressed hope that developments in Zimbabwe would not lead to unconstitutional changes of Government as that would be contrary to both SADC and African Union positions. The President has urged the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Defence Force to resolve the political impasse amicably and has urged the Zimbabwean Defence Force to ensure that the maintenance of peace and security in the country is not compromised. SADC will continue to closely monitor the situation and remains ready to assist where necessary to resolve the political impasse in keeping with established SADC Protocols and processes.
In contrast to Zuma’s message, Mmusi Maimane, leader of South Africa’s opposition Democratic Alliance called for Mugabe to step down and for elections to be held in Zimbabwe immediately.
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. This follows President Mugabe's decision to fire his Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, last week, bringing to the surface the deep-seated factionalism within the ruling ZANU-PF. As is the case with liberation movements across Africa, ZANU-PF has become immersed in the politics of patronage, where political infighting for resources and power is rife - while the country swiftly deteriorates.
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.
In addition to this, we call on the Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, to provide our country with an urgent briefing on the nature and extent of the crisis in Zimbabwe, including what action our government will take. South Africa cannot continue with its "quiet diplomacy" while the people of Zimbabwe suffer. We must engage with the goal of finding a solution which does not open the door for another dictator to take the reins.
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 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.
As Chairperson of the Southern African Platform for Democratic Change (SAPDC), I have engaged with the opposition in Zimbabwe on a number of occasions, and it is clear that the only way forward is for free and fair elections to be held as soon as possible.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) stands firm in our commitment to the advancement of vibrant, competitive, multiparty democracy, the rule of law, and the entrenchment of human rights and free speech across Africa. History has taught us that failed liberation movements cannot and will not self-correct. The solution has to come from outside these movements.
As the Zimbabwe crisis unfolds, it is having a negative impact on the South African Rand, from Bloomberg:
Investors are likely to watch developments in South Africa’s northern neighbour, Zimbabwe, where armed forces have seized power after a week of confrontation with President Robert Mugabe’s government…Rand (was) down 0.2% at 14.3925 per dollar after firming 0.7% on Tuesday. "The rand continues to trade at the mercy of headlines both local and regional," writes Nedbank analyst Reezwana Sumad in a note to clients. Although the rand recovered on Tuesday, gains were halted by talks of a coup in Zimbabwe "We have yet to hold below the technical level around 14.38 despite a few forays into that territory".
“The troubles in Zimbabwe could spill over into the rand,” John Cairns, a currency strategist at Rand Merchant Bank says in client note. “Remember that the great blowout of 2001 was at least partly because of - or at least blamed on - Zimbabwe. We have already heard stories of Zimbabweans rushing to take their money out of the country, and a full blown coup would lead to a further rush of refugees. On a longer-term basis, South Africa could benefit from an economic and political change in Zimbabwe, but for now the risks are probably that the troubles add mildly to rand pressure”
For those who are unfamiliar with the events that precipitated what is looking increasingly like a “military coup”, it is nothing more than fight to succeed President Robert Mugabe. The Youth faction of the ruling Zanu-PF party favours Mugabe’s wife, Grace, while the security establishment and veterans of the guerrilla warfare of the 1970s favour Emmerson Mnangagwa, the former Vice President. Mugabe dismissed Mnangagwa earlier this month for allegedly showing “traits of disloyalty, disrespect, deceitfulness and unreliability”. On 12 August 2017, Mnangagwa survived a poisoning attack at a Zanu-PF Youth Interface rally.
More to come.