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.
Just 24 hours after military chief General Constantino Chiwenga threatened to intervene to end a purge of his allies in Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, a Reuters reporter saw armored personnel carriers on main roads around the capital.
Aggressive soldiers told passing cars to keep moving through the darkness. “Don’t try anything funny. Just go,” one barked at Reuters 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. Several ZBC workers were manhandled, two members of staff and a human rights activist said.
Shortly afterwards, three explosions rocked the center of the southern African nation’s capital, Reuters witnesses said.
Despite the troops stationed at locations across Harare, there was no word from the military as to the fate of Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s leader of the last 37 years and the self-styled ‘Grand Old Man’ of African politics.
In contrast to his elevated status on the continent, Mugabe is reviled in the West as a despot whose disastrous handling of the economy and willingness to resort to violence to maintain power destroyed one of Africa’s most promising states.
In the only official word from the government, Isaac Moyo, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to neighboring South Africa, earlier dismissed talk of a coup, saying the government was “intact” and blaming social media for spreading false information.
“There’s nothing really happening. They are just social media claims,” Moyo told Reuters.
The Southern African nation has been on edge since Monday when Chiwenga, Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, said he was prepared to “step in” to end a purge of supporters of sacked vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Only a few months ago, Mnangagwa, a former security chief nicknamed “The Crocodile”, was favorite to succeed his life-long political patron but was ousted a week ago to pave the way for Mugabe’s 52-year-old wife Grace to succeed him.
Remember the five A's of proper coup execution have to be in hand:
- Armed forces
- and the Asshole in charge you're trying to overthrow.
It looks like, unlike the completely failed military coup in Turkey in July 2016, Chiwenga and his forces now have at least three and by some reports possibly all five of the A's in his possession. We'll see how things shake out over the next 24 hours, but at this point remember that Mugabe is 93 years old.
We'll see what the sun brings.