WATCH | Is it a coup? What we know about the situation in Zimbabwe

15 November 2017 - 12:13 By TimesLIVE

Soldiers deployed across the Zimbabwe capital Harare and seized the state broadcaster on Wednesday after 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party accused the head of the military of treason, prompting frenzied speculation of a coup.

What we know so far

It started with a warning

On Monday, the Commander of the Zimbabwe National Army‚ General Constantine Chiwenga‚ has waded into the Zanu PF succession war in response to the sacking of Emmerson Mnangagwa and purging of senior party members aligned to him‚ raising fears of a potential coup.

Zanu-PF hit back on Tuesday‚ describing Chiwenga’s warning as “treasonable conduct”.

Then came the army

A day after issuing the warning‚ Zimbabwean military forces took part in what was described as a 'training routine'‚ sparking panic in the country’s capital. Army trucks and tanks were spotted along Chinhoyi Road in Harare.

Soldiers stand beside military vehicles just outside Harare, Zimbabwe November 14,2017.
Soldiers stand beside military vehicles just outside Harare, Zimbabwe November 14,2017.
Image: REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Soldiers seized the state broadcaster

Early Wednesday morning the 'drills' took on a more serious tone as soldiers were deployed across Harare and overran the headquarters of the ZBC, Zimbabwe's state broadcaster and a principal Mugabe mouthpiece, and ordered staff to leave.

The military later sent out a statement assuring the nation it was not a military takeover and that President Robert Mugabe and his family was safe.

"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."

Ministers arrested

Several sources told TimesLIVE that the military had arrested the leading figures of the so-called G40 faction in the ruling Zanu-PF‚ led by First Lady Grace Mugabe.

Sources said those arrested included higher education minister Jonathan Moyo‚ local government minister Saviour Kasukuwere and finance minister Ignatius Chombo.

Is it a coup?

While the military denies it is a coup, a number of experts and politicians have gone as far as labelling it as such.

Zimbabwean academic Alex Magaisa‚ who acted as political advisor to former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai‚ said: “It’s a coup in all but name. You can describe a frog by many terms but it remains a frog. This is a coup.

“The military has taken over and they are only doing so in order to be able to sell the current political arrangement to the various sectors within the region. They know that a coup will not be accepted in the region. They know that it is very difficult to sell‚ so they are trying to dress this in a manner that looks decent‚ but it is a coup.”

Austin Moyo‚ the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Shadow Ambassador to South Africa, said that "all indications are that we are going towards a military rule. Those are the indications at this stage”.

Zuma has called for 'calm'

President Jacob Zuma‚ on behalf of the Southern African Development Community‚ has "noted with great concern" the unfolding political situation in neighbouring Zimbabwe.

Calling for restraint and calm‚ Zuma "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".

He is also sending Minister of State Security, Adv Bongani Bongo to Zimbabwe to meet with President Robert Mugabe and the Zimbabwean Defence Force. 

Mugabe 'fine' but confined

President Jacob Zuma said he spoke to President Robert Mugabe earlier today who indicated that he was confined to his home but said that he was fine. 

An armoured personnel carrier stationed by an intersection as Zimbabwean soldiers regulate traffic in Harare on November 15, 2017.
An armoured personnel carrier stationed by an intersection as Zimbabwean soldiers regulate traffic in Harare on November 15, 2017.

Harare under lockdown

There is a heavy presence of military and no sign of police on roads leading to the central business district of Harare. Students writing exams at the University of Zimbabwe were turned away and the campus cleared.

Some people were sceptical about going to work after the army in its statement said‚ "we urge you to remain calm and limit unnecessary movements". Other parts of the country are calm as events unravel in the capital.

Reuters have also reported that the Zimbabwean military is in charge of a paramilitary police support unit depot in Harare and has disarmed police officers there.

South Africans can still travel to Zimbabwe

The Department of International Relations and Cooperation says South Africans planning to visit Zimbabwe should continue with their plans despite fears of an army coup. However‚ he said decisions like that should be taken with due consideration of the prevailing situation on the ground.

A travel advisory by Fastjet on Wednesday confirmed flights between South Africa and Zimbabwe and in-country are operating as per their normal schedule.

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