As I mentioned last night, the military coup in Zimbabwe to remove strongman Robert Mugabe from power has been successful. The military, led by the commander of the nation's armed forces, Constantine Chiwenga, is now in charge of the capital Harare and has Mugabe under house arrest.
Zimbabwe’s military seized power and detained 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe in a struggle over the succession of the only leader the nation has ever known.
Mugabe told President Jacob Zuma by phone that he’s being confined to his home and is fine, the South African presidency said in a statement. Zimbabwe Defense Forces spokesman Major-General Sibusiso Moyo said in a televised address that the military action wasn’t a coup and was aimed at only “targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes.”
Troops took control of the state-owned broadcaster and sealed off parliament and the central bank’s offices, while armored vehicles were stationed in the center of the capital, Harare.
The military takeover comes at a delicate moment for Zimbabwe, where an estimated 95 percent of the workforce is jobless and as many as 3 million Zimbabweans have gone into exile. With an economy that has halved in size since 2000 and relies mainly on the dollar because it has no currency of its own, a severe cash shortage is choking businesses and forces some people to sleep in the streets near banks to ensure they can make withdrawals.
Zuma called for calm and urged the military to maintain the peace, while western governments including the U.S. urged their citizens in Zimbabwe to remain indoors.
The action came a day after armed forces commander Constantine Chiwenga announced that the military would stop “those bent on hijacking the revolution.”
Remember your five A's, Chiwenga had them in his pocket early. It helped that he started out with Armed Forces as head of the country's military, which made getting the other four much easier. He took the country's Airports and Airwaves, got the Asshole in charge in Mugabe, and has rounded up nearly all of Mugabe's Allies.
What sparked the coup? Mugabe made a fatal miscalculation by firing his vice-president in favor of his own wife, Grace. That was apparently too much to bear for Chiwenga and the military.
The military intervention followed a week-long political crisis sparked by Mugabe’s decision to fire his long-time ally Emmerson Mnangagwa as vice president in a move that paved the way for his wife Grace, 52, and her supporters to gain effective control over the ruling party. Nicknamed “Gucci Grace” in Zimbabwe for her extravagant lifestyle, she said on Nov. 5 that she would be prepared to succeed her husband.
People involved in the “purge” of liberation war veterans from the government will be arrested and charged, according to a senior official involved in the army action, who asked not to be named as the information isn’t public.
Despite the armed forces’s denial of a coup, the country is now under military rule, said Alex Magaisa, a Zimbabwean law lecturer who is based in the U.K. and helped design Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution.
“When you see a man in uniform reading news on national television, you know it’s done,” he said in a text message. “There are no more questions. Authority is now in the hands of the military.”
As far as Mugabe himself is concerned, South Africa's News24 is reporting that there's a growing political movement to offer him political asylum in that country in order to keep regional peace.
It looks to be all over but the clean-up. What comes next? We'll see if the country holds new elections, or if the junta stays in power. After all, that plan worked for Mugabe for nearly 40 years. Many of these are the bloodied hands that kept Mugabe in power since 1980, so there's no reason to believe they will either relinquish power to new elections or be any better than the "Grand Old Man" of Africa.
Meet the new boss...