Robert Mugabe’s 37-year reign of power in Zimbabwe is over.
In a quick and stealthy move that surprised observers around the world, the Zimbabwean Military took over and placed the 93-year-old dictator and his wife under house arrest. Citing a “search for criminals” around the geriatric leader, the Zimbabwean army dealt a swift and quiet blow to the tumultuous Mugabe dictatorship.
There had been signs of unrest in Zimbabwe for about a week. Over the years, the country’s failing economy and healthcare sector has brought the country to its knees, but nothing quite hit like the axing of Vice President “Crocodile” Emmerson Mnangagwa on November 7th. It is rumored that the Vice President was fired so that 52-year-old Grace, Mugabe’s wife, could succeed the aging President. The First Lady, popularly nicknamed “Gucci Grace,” has however, been a polarizing figure in the nation as she is well-known for her extravagant lifestyle and difficult demeanor. Despite the fact that the former Vice President and Mugabe have been allies since the fight for liberation, the President seemed to endorse his wife for the position—a move which split the country into two and saw the military step in to deal with the situation.
The military began to take steps following the sacking of the Vice President by issuing a tough statement on Monday against all those who did not take part in the nation’s liberation yet who want to take over the government. A second statement was later issued on Wednesday and tweets made by ZANU-PF, the country’s leading party today, which implied that the military had put in place a level of control on the country’s affairs. In the statement, military spokesman Major General SB Moyo said that the President and his family were safe, and only the criminals around him had been seized. He assured citizens that the country would return to normalcy once the “cleansing” was done.
On Wednesday, troops and armored vehicles thronged the capital Harare, and by today, at least one person—Ignatius Chombo of the finance docket—is reported as detained by the military. The mood in the country remains calm with an air of excitement, and people have largely stayed indoors as a few continue with their usual duties.
The President is under house arrest, and soldiers are surrounding his premises and other government buildings. Reports also have it that the first lady has left for Namibia (although Namibia denies these claims) and the former Vice President is in the country after returning from South Africa on Wednesday morning. He had initially fled the country following his sacking. Zuma of South Africa reported sending a special envoy to meet senior officers in the army of Zimbabwe and the President while the UK government has urged its citizens in the country to stay indoors until the country is back to a state of normalcy.
While the military maintains that this is not a coup d’etat, it bears all the hallmarks of one and can be said to be a ‘low key coup,’ as the government has established its presence in the international airport, detained Mugabe and taken over state TV. With the military control in place, the ongoing succession battle has been brought to a stop as the army strongly roots for the influential and powerful “Crocodile.” After 37 years of terror and tyrannical rule marred with the abuse of human rights, a failed economy, and a malfunctioning health care system, Zimbabwe sees some hope for a new era.