Written by Quintin Coetzee
On 14 and 15 November, members of the Zimbabwean military began stationing vehicles across the country’s capital, Harare, sending a strong message to the ruling government that it had reached the end of its patience with the status quo.
With current president, Robert Mugabe, effectively under house arrest, and the ruling party-aligned national broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) seized, Zimbabweans, and the rest of the world, watch on in anticipation of the outcome.
Mugabe and his party (ZANU-PF) have been in power, autocratically, for the past 37 years, since taking over from the country’s first president, Canaan Banana, in 1987. Throughout his years of rule, Mugabe has faced much opposition, from opposition parties and Zimbabwean citizens, against abuses of power in numerous forms.
The current situation was supposedly brought about by the recent ousting of former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was dismissed on 6 November 2017. This was allegedly done in order to make way for Mugabe’s wife, Grace, to take the helm after the president steps down.
On 13 November, Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Constantino Chiwenga released a statement criticizing those who were responsible for the dismissals of government officials in the ruling party. Chiwenga warned that the armed forces would be forced to intervene should the “purging” not stop.
On 14 November it was reported that soldiers and armoured military vehicles were seen headed towards the capital, Harare, after which several roads were blocked off, including the one leading to the president’s residence.
In the early hours of the following day, the military spokesperson, Major General SD Moyo, appeared on ZBC television to announce that the military had taken over the country, and that the president and his family were safe. He also stated that the armed forces would be “targeting criminals around him [Mugabe] who are committing crimes… that are causing social and economic suffering in the country”. It was later reported that several ZANU-PF politicians and government ministers were detained or arrested, including the country’s finance minister, Ignatious Chombo.
Zimbabwe’s economy has been in poor shape for many years, and military members have had to sometimes go for months on end without having their salaries paid by the current leadership.
One potential scenario is the leading of a transitional government by Mnangagwa. Another is the handing over of power to Mugabe, provided the military is satisfied that said power won’t be passed on to his spouse. A third option involves Constantino Chiwenga taking power. Finally, a snap election could be called, giving Zimbabweans an opportunity to head to the polls in order to decide the future of the country themselves.
Whatever the outcome, Zimbabweans are likely hoping to face a very different political environment going forward – one which brings about the much-needed prosperity that citizens deserve to see after decades of economic decline. Whether or not these changes come about peacefully remains to be seen.
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