HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s military said on Wednesday it had seized power in a targeted assault on “criminals” around President Robert Mugabe who were causing social and economic suffering, but gave assurances the 93-year-old leader and his family were “safe and sound”.
In a short broadcast on national television, which was seized overnight by soldiers, a spokesman for the military said it expected “normalcy” to return as soon as it had completed its “mission”.
The military detained Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo on Wednesday, a government source said. Chombo was a leading member of the so-called ‘G40’ faction of the ruling ZANU-PF party, led by Mugabe’s wife Grace, that had been vying to succeed Mugabe.
Soldiers deployed across the Zimbabwe capital Harare and seized the state broadcaster after Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party accused the head of the military of treason, prompting frenzied speculation of a coup.
Just 24 hours after military chief General Constantino Chiwenga threatened to intervene to end a purge of his allies in Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, a Reuters reporter saw armored personnel carriers on main roads around the capital.
Aggressive soldiers told passing cars to keep moving through the darkness. “Don’t try anything funny. Just go,” one barked at Reuters on Harare Drive.
Two hours later, soldiers overran the headquarters of the ZBC, Zimbabwe’s state broadcaster and a principal Mugabe mouthpiece, and ordered staff to leave. Several ZBC workers were manhandled, two members of staff and a human rights activist said.
Shortly afterwards, three explosions rocked the center of the southern African nation’s capital, Reuters witnesses said.
Mugabe, the self-styled ‘Grand Old Man’ of African politics, has led Zimbabwe for the last 37 years.
In contrast to his elevated status on the continent, Mugabe is reviled in the West as a despot whose disastrous handling of the economy and willingness to resort to violence to maintain power destroyed one of Africa’s most promising states.
The United States and Britain advised their citizens in Harare to stay indoors because of “political uncertainty.”
“U.S. citizens in Zimbabwe are encouraged to shelter in place until further notice,” the U.S. statement said. The British Foreign & Commonwealth Office statement told “nationals currently in Harare to remain safely at home or in their accommodation until the situation becomes clearer.”
The Southern African nation has been on edge since Monday when Chiwenga, Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, said he was prepared to “step in” to end a purge of supporters of sacked vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Only a few months ago, Mnangagwa, a former security chief nicknamed “The Crocodile”, was favorite to succeed his life-long political patron but was ousted a week ago to pave the way for Mugabe’s 52-year-old wife Grace to succeed him.
‘POLITICS OVER THE GUN’
Soldiers stand beside military vehicles just outside Harare,Zimbabwe,November 14,2017. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
Chiwenga’s unprecedented statement represented a major escalation of the struggle to succeed Mugabe, the only leader Zimbabwe has known since it gained independence from Britain in 1980.
Mugabe chaired a weekly cabinet meeting in the capital on Tuesday, officials said, and afterwards ZANU-PF said it stood by the “primacy of politics over the gun” and accused Chiwenga of “treasonable conduct … meant to incite insurrection.”
The previous day, Chiwenga had made clear the army’s refusal to accept the removal of Mnangagwa – like the generals a veteran of Zimbabwe’s anti-colonial liberation war – and the presumed accession of Grace, once a secretary in the government typing pool.
Local government minister Saviour Kasukuwere, a leading figure in her relatively youthful ‘G40’ faction, refused to answer Reuters questions about the situation in Harare. “I‘m in a meeting,” he said, before hanging up shortly before midnight.
Army, police and government spokesmen refused to answer numerous phone calls asking for comment.
Neither Mugabe nor Grace have responded in public to Chiwenga’s remarks and state media did not publish his statement. The Herald newspaper posted some of the comments on its Twitter page but deleted them.
The head of ZANU-PF’s youth wing, which openly backs Grace, accused the army chief of subverting the constitution.
“Defending the revolution and our leader and president is an ideal we live for and if need be it is a principle we are prepared to die for,” Youth League leader Kudzai Chipanga said at the party’s headquarters in Harare.
Grace Mugabe’s rise has brought her into conflict with the independence-era war veterans, who enjoyed privileged status in Zimbabwe until the last two years when they spearheaded criticism of Mugabe’s handling of the economy.
In the last year, a chronic absence of dollars has led to long queues outside banks and an economic and financial collapse that many fear will rival the meltdown of 2007-2008, when inflation topped out at 500 billion percent.
Imported goods are running out and economists say that, by some measures, inflation is now at 50 percent a month.
According to a trove of intelligence documents reviewed by Reuters this year, Mnangagwa has been planning to revitalize the economy by bringing back thousands of white farmers kicked off their land nearly two decades ago and patching up relations with the likes of the World Bank and IMF.
Whatever the outcome, analysts said the military would want to present their move as something other than a full-blown coup to avoid criticism from an Africa keen to leave behind the Cold War continental stereotype of generals being the final arbiters of political power.
“A military coup is the nuclear option,” said Alex Magaisa, a UK-based Zimbabwean academic. “A coup would be a very hard sell at home and in the international community. They will want to avoid that.”
‘Statement from the Zimbabwe Defense Forces’
15 November 2017 at 01:26
Fellow Zimbabweans, following the address we made on 13 November 2017 which we believe our main broadcaster, ZBC and The Herald were directed not to publicise, the situation in our country has moved to another level.
Firstly, we wish to assure the nation that His Excellency, The President, of the Republic of Zimbabwe, Head of State and Government and Commander in Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Cde R.G Mugabe and his fa,ily 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 individuals to influence the current purging taking place in Zanu PF to the Civil service. We are against that act of injustice and we intend to protect everyone of you against it.
To the judiciary, the measures underway are intended to ensure that, as an independent arm of the state, you are able to exercise your independent authority without fear of being obstructed as has been the case with this group of individuals.
To our Members of Parliament: Your legislative role is of paramount importance for peace and stability in this country and it is our desire that a dispensation is created that allows you to serve your respective political constituencies according to democratic tenets.
To the generality of the people of Zimbabwe: We urge you to remain calm and limit unnecessary movement. However, we encourage those who are employed and those with essential business in the city to continue their normal activities as usual. Our wish is that you enjoy your rights and freedoms and that we return our country to a dispensation that allows for investment, development and prosperity that we all fought for and for which many of our citizens paid the supreme sacrifice.
To political Parties; We urge you to discourage your members from engaging in violent behaviour.
To the youth: We call upon you to realise that the future of this country is yours. Do not be enticed with dirty coins of silver, be disciplined and remain committed to the ethos and values of this great nation.
To all Churches and religious organisations in Zimbabwe: We call upon you and your congregations to pray for our country and preach the gospel of love, peace, unity and development.
To both our people and the world beyond our borders: We wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover of Government. What the Zimbabwe Defence Forces is doing is to pacify a degenerating political, social and economic situation in our country which if not addressed may result in violent conflict.
We call upon all the war veterans to play a positive role in ensuring peace, stability and unity in the country.
To members of the Defence Forces: All leave is cancelled and you are all to return to your barracks with immediate effect.
To our respected Traditional leaders: You are the custodians of our culture, customs, traditions and heritage and we request you to provide leadership and direction to your communities for the sake of unity and development in our country.
To the other Security Services: We urge you to cooperate for the good of our country. Let it be clear that we intend to address the human security threats in our country. Therefore any provocation will be met with an appropriate response.
To the media; we urge you report fairly and responsibly.
Mugabe rejected Zambia asylum proposal during impasse
Former president of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, rejected an asylum proposal from neighbouring Zambia in the heat of the political crisis that led to his resignation on Tuesday, November 21, 2017.
Zambian leader Edgar Lungu is quoted by local media portal Zambia reports, as saying he had personally offered Mugabe, 93, shelter but the overture was rejected.
“I had talked to him [and said] that if the chips are down you can come here but he refused saying that his home was Zimbabwe and he will remain there.”
I had talked to him [and said] that if the chips are down you can come here but he refused saying that his home was Zimbabwe and he will remain there.
Lungu returned from Angola where regional political bloc, SADC, had met over the crisis. Presidents of Angola and South Africa cancelled a trip to Harare after Mugabe agreed to step down following pressure from the army, his party and ordinary Zimbabweans who flooded the streets.
The Zambian leader also tasked the Zimbabwe Defense Forces (ZDF) to return to the barracks now that Mugabe had stepped down so as to allow for the constitution to be the guiding law. Reports, however, indicate that army tanks had started withdrawing from their positions following news of Mugabe’s resignation.
Exiled president Emmerson Mnangagwa whose firing led to the army taking over on Wednesday returned to the country.
As new leader of the ruling ZANU-PF, he is expected to be sworn in as president to see out Mugabe’s tenure ahead of elections next year.
Robert Mugabe resigns as president of Zimbabwe
Robert Mugabe has resigned as president of Zimbabwe with immediate effect after 37 years in power, the speaker of the country’s parliament has said.
The announcement came during a parliamentary hearing to impeach him and launches the nation into a new era as uncertain as it is hopeful.
The move caps an astonishing eight-day crisis, which started when the military took over last week in order to block the rise to power of Mugabe’s wife and her faction within the ruling Zanu-PF party then developed into a popular revolt against the ageing autocrat.
A letter submitted to parliament by the 93-year-old said his decision to resign was voluntary on his part.
Wild jubilation broke out among MPs when Jacob Mudenda, the speaker, told the parliament and cheers and celebrations spread through the streets of Harare.
Zimbabweans celebrate in Harare after the resignation of Mugabe. Photograph: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP
Impeachment proceedings against Mugabe began earlier on Tuesday as the ruling party, Zanu-PF, attempted to remove him from office.
Thousands of Zimbabweans had turned up outside parliament to urge on MPs, chanting, dancing and waving placards in Africa Unity square.
Though some still consider the former guerrilla a hero of the liberation struggle, many more reviled Mugabe as a dictator prepared to sacrifice the economic wellbeing of 13 million people to remain in power.
His fall will reverberate across a continent where hundreds of millions still suffer the authoritarian excesses of rapacious, ruthless rulers, are denied justice by corrupt or incompetent officials, and struggle to hold even elected governments to account.
The way is now clear for Emmerson Mnangagwa, the vice-president fired by Mugabe 13 days ago, to take power. He was appointed interim leader of the Zanu-PF at the meeting on Sunday.
The military has said it has no intention of staying in power and according to the constitution, Mnangagwa, as vice-president, should now take the place of Mugabe as head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
Shortly before legislators met, Mnangagwa broke more than a week of silence to add his voice to those calling for the ageing leader to step down.
Until recently Mugabe’s vice-president and right hand man, Mnangagwa, 75, is a veteran of Zimbabwe’s liberation wars and a former spy chief who has close relations with the commanders who led the takeover.
Opposition leaders in Zimbabwe have called for the formation of an inclusive transitional government but risk being sidelined by the powerful army and Zanu-PF.
Mugabe has been under house arrest and key allies of his wife, Grace, removed from power since the military took charge last week.
The ruling Zanu-PF party, which at the weekend voted to make Mnangagwa its leader and demote Mugabe to a rank-and-file member, introduced the motion to impeach and the opposition seconded it.
Mugabe had refused to resign until the impeachment proceedings were underway.
The case for impeachment against Mugabe, foccused heavily on his age and the machinations of his wife for “usurping constitutional power”, leaving a man who is still respected as a hero of the liberation struggle against colonial rule as much dignity as possible.
Mnangagwa had said in a written statement released on Tuesday morning that he backed impeachment as an “ultimate expression of the will of the people outside an election.”
He had fled into exile earlier this month after being ousted from his position in government and Zanu-PF by a faction allied to Grace Mugabe. His supporters are widely believed to be behind the coup.
Mo Ibrahim: What makes a good African leader? – The Stream
Mo Ibrahim, the Sudanese-born British billionaire philanthropist made his fame and fortune by bringing mobile phone service to tens of millions of Africans across the continent. Now, he is known for the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, and its prize, considered the world’s largest, for good governance and leadership, awarded to departing African leaders that fit criteria established by the foundation.
Celtel International was founded in 1998 and went on to be a trailblazer in establishing communications on the African continent. The company is famous for never having paid a bribe, a story Ibrahim is fond of telling. Since he sold Celtel in 2005 for 3.4 billion, he has been focused on his foundation’s work and the annual index of African governance; an index with that measures political, social, and economic factors in all 54 countries. It is an ambitious tool, meant to increase accountability and provide Africans with information to ask questions of their leaders and governments.
The foundation’s prize was created as an incentive for African leaders to shun corruption, step down at the mandated time, and to provide departing African leaders with a livelihood after leading. The prize is not without some controversy, as some critics have said it’s akin to bribing a leader simply to do the right thing, or rewarding them just for doing their job. It awards $5 million USD over 10 years when the selected leader steps down, and $200,000 USD thereafter for life. But every year has not seen a laureate awarded. Since it began in 2006, only five individuals have been given the prize, and the prize has not been awarded for the last three years, highlighting the political challenges faced by some African countries.
The Stream meets with Ibrahim to discuss African governance, his foundation’s work, and the driving forces in Africa right now.
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