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Robert Mugabe in detention after military takes control of Zimbabwe

Robert Mugabe remains in detention at his home in Zimbabwe more than 12 hours after the military declared on national television that it had temporarily taken control of the country to “target criminals” around the head

Robert Mugabe remains in detention at his home in Zimbabwe more than 12 hours after the military declared on national television that it had temporarily taken control of the country to “target criminals” around the head of state.

The move by the armed forces appears to have resolved a bitter battle to succeed the 93-year-old president, which had pitted his former vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, against Mugabe’s wife, Grace.

Mnangagwa was reported to have returned to Zimbabwe on Tuesday evening from South Africa, where he fled last week after being stripped of his office by Mugabe in an apparent attempt to clear Grace Mugabe’s path to power.

There were unconfirmed reports that Grace was in Namibia on Wednesday on business.

The military takeover comes two days after the army chief – flanked by other senior officers – said he was prepared to “step in” to end turmoil in the ruling Zanu-PF party.

It is likely to signal the departure from power of the world’s oldest leader within days, weeks or at most months.

One high-profile opposition leader said there was “a lot of talking going on”, with the army reaching out to them to discuss the formation of a transitional government after Mugabe steps down.

Negotiations had been ongoing for several months with “certain people within the army”, a second senior opposition official said.

The official said Mugabe would resign this week and be replaced by Mnangagwa, with opposition leaders taking posts as vice-president and prime minister. There was no independent confirmation of his claim.

Zimbabwe’s fragmented opposition has not publicly condemned the military move. Nelson Chamisa, the deputy head of the opposition MDC party, called for “peace, constitutionalism, democratisation, the rule of law and the sanctity of human life”.

Tendai Biti, an opposition leader, called for a “roadmap back to legitimacy”.

“What is key is that a traditional authority is set up which is inclusive with the opposition and the ruling party … We need a dialogue too with [regional organisations], the African Union and the United Nations. We can’t solve this problem on our own,” Biti said.

South Africa appears to be backing the takeover and sent ministers as envoys on Wednesday morning. The South African president, Jacob Zuma, said in a statement that he had spoken to Mugabe, who he said had confirmed he was “confined” but “fine”. Zuma called for calm and a transition in line with the Zimbabwean constitution.

Soldiers have blocked access to parliament, government offices and courts in Harare, the capital, residents said. Access to the president’s official residence was also blocked by troops. But the city appeared calm.

“Although a little bit scary, I think this is good for us. It has been a long time, we are going through a lot of hardships,” a fruit and vegetable seller in the centre of the city said.

“People are excited because they are ready for change,” said an official who asked not to be named because of his job. “I don’t think things will get violent because they are doing this for the people.”

Early on Wednesday, a military spokesman, Maj Gen SB Moyo, made an announcement on state television saying Mugabe and his family were “safe and sound and their security is guaranteed”. Troops seized the network’s offices late on Tuesday night.

Moyo insisted – despite appearances – that a coup had not taken place, adding: “As soon as [the armed forces] are done the situation will come to normalcy.”

There was no sign of any resistance to the takeover or to the arrest of a series of senior officials associated with Grace Mugabe and her G40 faction. The youth wing of the ruling Zanu-PF, which had made defiant statements directed at the military earlier in the week, appeared to condone the military action.

Mnangagwa, a former spy chief, has strong support among many in Zimbabwe’s armed forces, and it is unclear who might oppose him in coming days. In contrast, Grace Mugabe is deeply unpopular and has few allies internally or, crucially, regionally.

The US embassy in the capital tweeted a message citing “ongoing uncertainty”. A statement posted by the embassy later told US citizens in Zimbabwe to “shelter in place until further notice”. The British embassy said that due to the uncertain political situation British nationals should remain at home.

Evan Marawire, a pastor and one of Zimbabwe’s best-known activists, called on Zimbabweans to “remain calm and hopeful, alert but prayerful”. Marawire, who has been jailed and prosecuted since launching the #thisflag movement last year, which led to huge protests, did not directly condemn or condone the military takeover, but said developments were “the culmination of the work that citizens have been doing”.

Mugabe’s sacking of Mnangagwa came as a shock to many observers. Nicknamed “the crocodile” from his time fighting in the country’s liberation wars, he had been considered the most likely candidate to succeed Mugabe if the president decided to step down or died in office.


Mnangagwa’s sacking was widely seen as a move to pave the way for Grace Mugabe to take power instead. It caused widespread discontent among Mnangagwa’s supporters and exposed deep factional divides within Zanu-PF ranks.

Mugabe has systematically dismissed veterans of the liberation struggle from party posts in recent years, leaving the top echelons stacked with officials who did not fight in the independence war. This exacerbated a long-running battle between an old political elite forged in the 1970s and 1980s, and a new generation that coalesced around Grace Mugabe.

War veterans broke ranks with the president in 2016 and have vowed to form a broad front with the opposition to challenge his rule.

Chris Mutsvangwa, the head of the war veterans’ group, told reporters in Johannesburg last week that Grace Mugabe was “a mad woman” who had won power through a “coup … by marriage certificate”.

Mutsvangwa issued a statement from Johannesburg on Wednesday praising the military for carrying out “a bloodless correction of gross abuse of power” that would return Zimbabwe to “genuine democracy”.

Grace Mugabe’s reputation has been tarnished by a series of violent outbursts, including an alleged assault against a model she had found with her sons in a luxury apartment in Johannesburg in September. Granted diplomatic immunityafter the incident, she was allowed to leave South Africa despite a police inquiry, and denies any wrongdoing.

Reports of extravagant purchases, including property in South Africa and a Rolls-Royce, have also angered many Zimbabweans. Pictures of one of the first lady’s sons apparently pouring most of a bottle of champagne over a luxury watch worth tens of thousands of dollars in a nightclub were shared widely on social media this week.

The crisis comes at a time when Zimbabwe faces severe economic problems. The country is struggling to pay for imports due to a shortage of dollars, which has also caused acute cash shortages. State employees, including some soldiers and policemen, have gone for months without payment of their salaries, deepening discontent with the government.

The Guadian

Review overview
  • fetsum November 15, 2017

    what a relief to the people of Zimbabwe although the military takeover cannot guarantee democracy in the country. Can you imagine a freedom fighter turning dictator to be in this situation? What a shame but that is how all of them end up to be at the end of the day.! .

  • Tekie November 15, 2017

    and when will the Eritrean defense force detain Tyrant Issayas and free the Eritrean people?

    • k.tewolde November 15, 2017

      In Eritrea’s case they will wait it out till the tyrant dies a natural death.I came to this conclusion by taking into account a myriad of reasons.I will leave it at that.

      • amanuel November 16, 2017

        As soon as he dies they will eat each other though. We shall see who swallows who.

  • FM November 15, 2017

    The fate of dictators is very predictable – they start as heroes, become monsters and die like dogs. Though Mugabe would be removed, his legacy of dysfunction and repression will be hard to root out any time soon; especially, it is his own party and the military after his own image that is safeguarding the transition if any. Will Eritrea be lucky to see the removal of the 7-headed monster any time soon. We hope so. However, one thing is clear, his removal will be ugly and once he falls of grace, I bet his staunch supporters will be the ones to cast the first stone on him because most of them are opportunists with chameleon skin, that changes its color with it environment.

  • Danilo November 15, 2017

    Wow, i see it as good news broad coverage broadcast all over the world. It is essential, relief. hope, and exemplar for others .

  • Z. Hagos November 15, 2017

    For years Mugabe was feared and respected. Unlike Isaias who is caged in Adi Hallo, Mugabe used to walk freely anywhere anyplace and anytime. His leadership was better than that of Isaias in that he had a parliament and elections. He always used to run for re-election again and again legally against other political parties’ candidates and won repeatedly.
    Despite the worst ever embargoes, his people were well fed and had good healthcare services. Unlike Isaias, despite the boundaries he created as a dictator, he was in good relationship with his people.

    • amanuel November 16, 2017

      Well iseyas is a graduate in one thing only- malice. He is a failure in everything in his life. He joined addis ababa university and droped out afier only one year. He joined asmara university as an extension student in 1992 and harrased them to give him a degree. He put on a uniform, jumped over the cliff ranting to destroy weyane and break ethiopia appart- as usual covered himself in shame. Mugabe unlike iseyas is a states man, not a thug. The only similarity b/n the two is dictatorship.

  • kurmaj tekebel November 15, 2017

    From my point of view Mugabe was not a dictator.he was being elected in a free and fair elections by his people.Before the land reformation Mugabe was a darling of the West and the economy of the country was doing well.But then, after his government declared that the land stolen will be returned to the owners then the Western medias the shakals and their governments started to finish Mugabe off and sabotage the economy.of the country.It was an open war against Mugabe and his countrys economy by the West.There is no comparison between Mugabe and Isayas and Zimbabwe and Eritrea.They are different worlds.On the one hand you have got a country with rule of law,,constitution(where if people are detained on suspicion will be brought before court,and are innocent until they are proven guilty ,the detainee have rights to be visited by their relatives or friends,no one dies or disappears in a prison) and on the other hand you have got the president of Adi Halo(i think his presidency is confined only in Adi Halo and not beyond) and Eritrea.which is far below failed nations.Mugabe might be a dictator from Western point of view(they give you anyway any name they want if you tell them to go to hell ) and his adversaries but for the Zimbabwians and Africans is our hero and mentor and role model..I wish we have some leaders with his calibre and courage and determination,wisdom In Africa and we could have been in a better position…Unfortunately,one way or the other we are manipulated by the western media and we starting parrotting them in most cases in our subconsciousness withoiut given a second thought to the discussion concerned… Robert Mugabe was not a dictator .

  • Amazon November 16, 2017

    His wife must be 1/4 of his age!

  • AHMED SALEH !!! November 16, 2017

    I have information about president Mugabe through Western media . Either he
    cares about his power or for his own power advantages it depends on people
    of Zimbabwe judgment . But his ruling party influences and dominance of their
    military high ranking officials over civilians raise a question . Anyway it is early to
    have opinion in their political developments . Let’s wait and see how they handle
    this opportunity to succeed on their people expectation for democratic reform .
    I wish them peaceful and satisfactory transition .