Julian Robinson et al., Daily Mail, November 15, 2017
Zimbabwe’s dictator Robert Mugabe is likely to be forced to hand power to his sacked vice president in a few weeks to make today’s coup appear legal, experts have claimed.
The 93-year-old’s grip on the country appears over after he was detained in his own home when the military seized control in what it described as a ‘bloodless correction’ overnight.
His wife, dubbed Gucci Grace for her love of shopping, is believed to have fled to Namibia having been allowed to leave the country last night, opposition MP Eddie Cross told the BBC. Her location has not yet been confirmed.
Deposed vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, a veteran of Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation wars who was sacked by Mugabe earlier this month, is believed to have returned from exile.
The dismissal of Mnangagwa, nicknamed the Crocodile, had left Grace Mugabi, 52, in prime position to succeed her husband as the next president — a succession strongly opposed by senior ranks in the military.
Derek Matyszak, an analyst at the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies, said he believes the army will now be in negotiations with both Mugabe and Mnangagwa.
‘The easiest way to present a veneer of legality is that Mugabe reappoints Mnangagwa as vice president, briefly — Mugabe then retires.’ Under Zimbabwe’s constitution, the first vice president would automatically become acting president for 90 days.
Last night, the military read a statement on live TV claiming this is not ‘a military takeover of government’ and said Mugabe was safe.
Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo, a leading member of the so-called ‘G40’ faction of the ruling ZANU-PF party led by Mugabe’s wife Grace, had also been detained by the military, a government source said.
Soldiers stormed the headquarters of state broadcaster ZBC in the early hours of Wednesday, two members of staff and a human rights worker told Reuters, as staff complained they were manhandled by the military members.
After taking control of the station, the military released a statement which denied a coup was underway, adding that Mugabe and his family were ‘safe and sound and their security is guaranteed’.
They added that the army were targeting people who ‘were committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country.
Zimbabwe military’s statement in full after seizing power
Zimbabwe Major General SB Moyo, Chief of Staff Logistics, said on national television:
‘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.’
‘As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy,’ the statement continued.
Mnangagwa, who has close ties to the military, had been seen as Mugabe’s natural successor, and after he was ousted, he took aim at Mugabe and his supporters.
He said said Zanu-PF was ‘controlled by undisciplined, egotistical and self-serving minnows who derive their power not from the people and the party but from only two individuals in the form of the first family’.
The ruling ZANU-PF party hit back at Chiwenga’s threat, saying it would never succumb to military pressure and described the statement by the armed forces chief as ‘treasonable conduct’.
Tanks had been making their way to the city centre throughout Tuesday as tensions reached boiling point.
Then at least three explosions were heard in Harare overnight, sparking fears of a coup which sent shockwaves around Zimbabwe.
Armed soldiers were also reportedly seen assaulting passers-by in the capital and loading ammunition near a group of four military vehicles in an unprecedented challenge to Mugabe.
The Zimbabwean President’s house, where gunfire was heard this morning, was also surrounded by soldiers, but speculation suggested it was for his own protection amid suggestions his 37-year reign was coming to an end.
Zimbabwe’s envoy to South Africa, Isaac Moyo, had earlier reported there was no coup, adding that the government was ‘intact’.
Such takeovers not looked upon favourably bu the African Union (AU). In 2015, the group hit coup leaders with sanctions a year after an uprising against Burkina Faso leader Blaise Compaore.
Armoured vehicles blocked roads to the main government offices, parliament and the courts in central Harare, while taxis ferried commuters to work nearby
Britons and Americans are told to stay indoors as soldiers patrol the streets of Harare
The 20,000 British nationals in Zimbabwe are being advised to stay indoors after tanks and soldiers were seen on the streets of Harare.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued a statement this morning also urging UK citizens to avoid political activity following rising tensions in the African country.
The FCO guidance said: ‘Due to the uncertain political situation in Harare, including reports of unusual military activity, we recommend British nationals currently in Harare to remain safely at home or in their accommodation until the situation becomes clearer.’
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued a statement this morning also urging UK citizens to avoid political activity following rising tensions in the African country
The FCO also warned British nationals to steer clear of political activities and anything that could be considered criticism of President Mugabe for their own safety.
The statement added: ‘You should avoid political activity, or activities which could be considered political, including political discussions in public places and criticism of the President.
‘You should avoid all demonstrations and rallies. The authorities have sometimes used force to suppress demonstrations.’
Meanwhile the US embassy in Zimbabwe warned its citizens in the country to ‘shelter in place’ over the uncertainty.
‘As a result of the ongoing political uncertainty through the night, the Ambassador has instructed all employees to remain home (Wednesday),’ the embassy in Harare said in a statement. The embassy will be minimally staffed and closed to the public.
‘US citizens in Zimbabwe are encouraged to shelter in place until further notice.’
In Harare in the early hours of this morning, aggressive soldiers told passing cars to keep moving through the darkness. ‘Don’t try anything funny. Just go,’ one barked at a reporter 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.
Last night, two witnesses described seeing a military convoy near Westgate shopping centre, six miles from central Harare.
One, a fruit seller, said: ‘I saw a long convoy of military vehicles, including tanks.’
Tensions have been rising in the land-locked African country after Zimbabwe’s head of the military, General Constantino Chiwenga (pictured), challenged Mugabe over his decision to sack the vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa
The world’s oldest dictator: Tyrant whose savage rule was dominated by bloodshed and vote-rigging
Robert Mugabe’s legacy as one of the most ruthless tyrants of modern times will remain long after his days as notorious statesman of Zimbabwe are over.
What could turn out to be the 93-year-old leader’s final night in charge of the troubled south African nation concluded in typically chaotic fashion with the army saying it had Mugabe and his ambitious wife Grace in custody following a takeover of the state broadcaster.
Tensions escalated after the first lady appeared to be positioned to replace Mugabe’s recently fired deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa, leading many in Zimbabwe to suspect she could eventually succeed her husband.
The elderly politician’s second wife – after Sarah Hayfron died in 1992 – remained unpopular with some Zimbabweans because of her lavish spending, including in London’s plush stores, while many around her struggled against the country’s crippling economy.
Mugabe’s savage rule over Zimbabwe was dominated by murder, bloodshed, torture, persecution of political opponents, intimidation and vote-rigging on a grand scale.
He was the man who, in 1980, became the head of government of Zimbabwe, chosen to guide the country towards ‘democracy’ after 14 years of rebellion against the Crown headed by white Southern Rhodesian leader Ian Smith.
Much of Mugabe’s dirty work was carried out by his bullying henchmen, ‘veterans’ of the guerrilla war against the Smith regime.
They attacked and often murdered white farmers, burning their homes, looting their possessions and confiscating their land, while his political opponents were often beaten, sexually abused and sometimes charged with treason and homosexual offences.
The economy of this mineral-rich country descended into chaos with thousands of people reduced to grinding poverty, many of them suffering from near-starvation and worse.
Mugabe’s relationship with the Commonwealth, which he dubbed an ‘Anglo-Saxon unholy alliance’, was always stormy.
Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth in March 2002 after Mugabe was denounced for vote-rigging his own re-election.
During the Commonwealth heads of government conference a year later, he quit the organisation while member states were arguing about Zimbabwe’s future.
Zimbabwe President’s long rule at a glance:
1980: Mugabe named prime minister after independence elections
1982: Military action begins in Matabeleland against perceived uprising; government is accused of killing thousands of civilians
1987: Mugabe changes constitution and becomes president
1994: Mugabe receives honorary British knighthood
2000: Land seizures of white-owned farms begin; Western donors cut off aid
2005: United States calls Zimbabwe an ‘outpost of tyranny’
2008: Mugabe and opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirayi agree to share power after contested election; Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II annuls Mugabe’s honorary knighthood
2011: Prime Minister Tsvangirayi declares power-sharing a failure amid violence
2013: Mugabe wins seventh term; opposition alleges election fraud
2016: (hash)ThisFlag protest movement emerges; independence war veterans turn on Mugabe, calling him ‘dictatorial’
2017: Mugabe begins campaigning for 2018 elections
November 6: Mugabe fires deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa, appearing to position first lady Grace Mugabe for vice president post
November 15: Army announces it has Mugabe and his wife in custody as military appears to take control
Social media users said the army headquarters in the city centre were sealed off, with no one allowed in or out, and that road blocks were in place outside the barracks of the presidential guard.
Others said they had seen tanks heading towards the presidential guard compound in the western suburb of Dzivarasekwa. Conflicting reports from the impoverished southern African country claimed the borders had been sealed and the airport shut.
The military has been a key pillar of Mugabe’s regime and has helped him keep control despite economic ruin, widespread anti-government protests, opposition challenges and international sanctions.
But there has been growing disquiet over threats against senior figures inside Zanu-PF, including Mr Mnangagwa.
The veteran of the Seventies war that led to the country’s independence fell from favour after he spoke out against a party faction led by Mrs Mugabe, saying it was ‘plundering the country’.
After Mugabe accused him of using witchcraft in a plot to take power, Mr Mnangagwa fled the country with his family, but vowed to return and lead a rebellion against the Mugabes, backed by the country’s war veterans and armed forces.
Zimbabwe’s first lady has been a divisive figure since marrying Robert Mugabe in a lavish ceremony in 1996.
The influence of 52-year-old Grace Mugabe, dubbed ‘Gucci Grace’ for her love of shopping, has grown over the years to the point where she was being lined up as a potential successor to her husband.
But the former secretary, who was expecting to be appointed vice-president at a party congress next month, is widely loathed in her homeland.
Her recent escapades include seeing a journalist detained for saying she donated used underwear to supporters, and relying on diplomatic immunity to evade charges for assaulting a model in South Africa.
The 52-year-old, 41 years younger than her husband, has bought homes in Dubai and South Africa, spent £3million of state funds on her daughter’s wedding, and recently bought a £300,000 Rolls-Royce.
Her three sons, one from a previous marriage, angered Zimbabweans by flaunting their wealth.
One receipt posted online showed a single night’s spending of $3,000 – three times the average annual income.
The youngest recently filmed himself pouring expensive champagne over a diamond-encrusted watch, bragging he owned the timepiece because ‘daddy runs the whole country’.
His ousting was widely interpreted as a bid to ensure Mrs Mugabe would become vice president at a special conference of the ruling party next month, leaving her as the natural successor to her husband as president.
Surrounded by 90 senior army officers, General Chiwenga called this week for an end to the sacking of senior figures linked to the party’s ‘revolution’ against white minority rule in the Seventies.
He said: ‘We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in.’
The key incidents in Zimbabwe that led to the suspected coup
July: Robert Mugabe warns military leaders against interfering in the fight for succession, saying: ‘Politics shall always lead the gun, and not the gun politics. Otherwise it will be a coup’
November 6: Vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa – nicknamed The Crocodile – is fired by Mugabe
November 13: Zimbabwe’s head of the military says he could ‘step in’ to end President Mugabe’s ‘purge’ of opponents
November 14: Ruling ZANU-PF party to hits back saying it would never succumb to military pressure and described the statement by the armed forces chief as ‘treasonable conduct’
Mugabe is the only leader Zimbabwe has known in 37 years of independence — first as the chair of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANY), then as leader of the ZANY party as Prime Minister and then President.
Under Mugabe’s leadership the GDP of Zimbabwe has fallen by almost 50 per cent, according to the United Nations.
The country suffered badly during the recession and experienced hyperinflation and a widespread lack of food and other essentials.
Things have slightly recovered, but are still significantly worse than when the family took power.
Meanwhile, the Mugabe’s themselves live their lives bathing in eye-watering luxury.
Mrs Mugabe is currently suing a Lebanese jeweller for failing to deliver a £1million diamond ring she bought to mark her 21st wedding anniversary with the dictator.
Is the Crocodile any better than Mugabe? Deposed vice-president who has seized power in Zimbabwe is a London-educated former spymaster ‘who orchestrated 1980s massacre of 20,000 opponents’
The man believed to be behind the events in Zimbabwe today is the country’s recently sacked vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa – also known as ‘The Crocodile’.
Mnangagwa, 75, is a notorious and much-feared figure in Zimbabwe, having led a vicious crackdown on opponents in the 1980s with the help of the dreaded North Korean-trained Fifth Army brigade.
Thousands of civilians were killed during the Gukurahundi campaign, but Mnangagwa has always denied involvement.
His reputation for cruelty is so legendary that he was one of the few leaders of Zimbabwe known to drive around the country without security.
Mnangagwa was widely viewed as Mugabe’s successor until he was ditched by the president last week and fled to South Africa.
Mugabe had accused his former deputy of plotting to take power from him, while his ambitious wife Grace referred to him as a snake that ‘must be hit on the head’ after the two clashed.
But Mnangagwa, who recently survived a poisoning attempt blamed on ice-cream from Mugabe’s own dairy, has been telling allies he would return rapidly and everything would soon be ‘sorted’.
He is a leader of the so-called ‘Lacoste’ faction — named after the clothes firm’s crocodile logo, which matches Mnangagwa’s reptilian nickname — within Mugabe’s party. The group enjoys strong support among military figures.
With the events of today, the struggle between Grace and Mnangagwa to succeed 93-year-old Mugabe appears to be shifting in the Crocodile’s favour.
He earned his ‘Crocodile’ nickname when he returned to Zimbabwe and led a gang of fighters called the ‘Crocodile Group’ during the civil war.
The gang blew up several trains during their operations against the Rhodesian government and, as a consequence, Mnangagwa was arrested in 1965.
He confessed to revolutionary activity and was savagely tortured, but escaped the death penalty after successfully arguing that, because he was under 21, he should not be executed.
Instead, he was sentenced to ten years in jail, being kept at Salisbury Prison, Grey Prison, Khami Prison and Harare Prison.
Tens of thousands were killed in Gukurahundi atrocities
After Mugabe won the election of 1980 and became Zimbabwe’s first prime minister, there were fears a potential takeover of the country by the Ndebele ethnic minority may be afoot.
In 1983, Mnangagwa led a major crackdown in Matabeleland, in the southwest of Zimbabwe.
Matabeleland was the stronghold of Mugabe’s political rival, Joshua Nkomo. Mugabe blamed members of Nkomo’s party for a series of murders and attacks on property in the country.
During the operation between 1983 and 1987 — later known as the Gukurahundi (or ‘the early rain which washes away the before the spring rains’) — tens of thousands of civilians were killed.
The North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade was responsible for the atrocities, which also included the torture and rape of tens of thousands in Matabeleland.
Showing that they had learned from their Communist teachers, the Fifth Brigade troops summarily detained and executed Ndebele men of fighting age, who were automatically deemed guilty of subversion.
Many were also marched to re-education camps, a popular tactic employed by Stalinist North Korea as well as Communist China.
On one occasion, in March of 1983, the Fifth Brigade slaughtered 55 people — apparently at random — on the banks of the Cewale River.
Grace recently told supporters: ‘In 1980 this person called Mnangagwa wanted to stage a coup. He wanted to wrestle power from the president.
‘He was conspiring with whites. That man is a ravisher.’