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Zimbabwe: Mugabe and military talks continue amid political limbo

Zimbabwe remains in political limbo a day-and-a-half after the military takeoverthat appears to have put an end to Robert Mugabe’s 37-year grip on power. As talks between Mugabe - who has been confined to his residence in

Zimbabwe remains in political limbo a day-and-a-half after the military takeoverthat appears to have put an end to Robert Mugabe’s 37-year grip on power.

As talks between Mugabe – who has been confined to his residence in Harare by the army, and senior military officers – entered a second day, there were reports that he is resisting pressure to resign as president. A Catholic priest close to the veteran leader is involved in mediation efforts.

The Zimbabwean capital was tense but calm amid the political uncertainty. Troops have secured the airport, government offices, parliament and other key sites. The rest of the country has remained peaceful. The takeover has been cautiously welcomed by many Zimbabweans.

Regional power South Africa appears to be backing the takeover, and has sent ministers to Harare to help with negotiations to form a new government and decide the terms of Mugabe’s resignation.

An emergency meeting of the Southern African Development Community regional bloc is scheduled to take place in Botswana at 3pm (1pm GMT).

Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition, arrived in Harare from Johannesburg on Wednesday night and was due to give a press conference on Thursday. He has been tipped as a potential prime minister in a new political set-up.

The military declared on national television in the early hours of Wednesday morning that it had temporarily taken control of the country to “target criminals”around the 93-year-old president. It now seems likely that the ruthless rule of the world’s oldest leader will be definitively over within days.

The takeover by the armed forces appears to have resolved a bitter battle to succeed Mugabe that had pitted his wife, Grace, against the former vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

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.

Reports that Grace Mugabe had fled to Namibia on Wednesday appeared false, with several sources saying she was detained with her husband in their residence in Harare.

The future of the first lady is a key element in the ongoing discussions between Mugabe and the military. Singapore and Malaysia, where the Mugabes own property, are potential destinations if she is allowed to travel into exile.

Forty-eight hours of drama and confusion had begun on Monday when the army chief – flanked by other senior officers – warned he was prepared to “step in” to end turmoil in the ruling Zanu-PF party.

By Wednesday, it was “game over” for Mugabe, as Piers Pigou, a South Africa-based analyst for the International Crisis Group put it. “It’s just a question of how soft the landing is …. But the [army] still need him to provide a veneer of legitimacy and constitutionalism. If he doesn’t want to play ball that is a bit of a problem.”

The 93-year-old has ruled over Zimbabwe like a medieval monarch, favouring loyal followers with gifts of land, office and money, but pursuing those seen as traitors with a cruelty only marginally moderated by a residual respect for legal process.

A former guerrilla leader, Mugabe was ready to sacrifice his country’s economy to maintain his grip on power, turning to increasingly tired revolutionary rhetoric, corruption and coercion to stave off any threats. Few other than the close associates who benefited directly from Mugabe’s rule will mourn his passing from power.

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

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.

The 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 and former finance minister, called for a transitional authority to take over. His party said in a statement on Thursday it should be “made up of competent Zimbabweans whose mandate will be to put in place measures to turn around the economy.”

There has been 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.

Late on Wednesday, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation interrupted its programming to broadcast a statement by the party’s youth leader, Kudzai Chipanga, who apologised for “denigrating” military chiefs.

Grace Mugabe is deeply unpopular and has few allies internally or, crucially, regionally. In contrast, 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.

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.

But the increasingly infirm president’s gamble exposed deep factional divides within the ranks of Zanu-PF as well as the political weakness of his wife and her faction. “It was a spectacular miscalculation,” said Pigou.

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 Guardian

Review overview
  • Semere November 16, 2017

    Can the Eritrean defense force Learn from this put the aging Issayas Afeworki under house arrest?

    • Asmara Eritrea November 17, 2017

      I suggest under a shipping container arrest placed in the hottest place in Eritrea with the key thrown to the bottom of the Red Sea. That’s what Isaias deserves before he ends up in his specially reserved place in hell where he burns for eternity. No one should destroy a country and go free.

      Mugabe is a saint compared to the beast in Asmara. But still a big disappoint to those of us who followed his achievement at the Lancaster House. He (Mugabe) brought a country to its knees that was once known as the bread basket of Africa. There is something about African leaders I fail to fathom.

      Eritrea forever, death to dictatorship.

    • k.tewolde November 18, 2017

      He already is ab adi halo with an anklet electronic brace monitored by satellite,you know owned by who,not the EDF.

  • Z. Hagos November 16, 2017

    Thanks Assenna for the updating news.
    Following is a new Eritrean song sent to Alem Goitom of Meskerem-dot-net, which he didn’t post:
    ጥዑም ወረ – ጥዑም ወረ
    ህዝቢ ዝምባቡዌ ተዓዊቱ ጥዑም ወረ
    ኣየወ እዚ ህዝቢ ዝምባቡዌ ተዓዊቱ ጥዑም ወረ

    Alem Goitem is nervous and disturbed by the Zimbabweans victory over their constitutionally backed dictatorial rule. What about the illegal tyranny in Eritrea????? That’s why ee won’t post the song. He should know that today in Zimbabwe and tomorrow in Eritrea.

    • Mihret November 16, 2017

      You must be the one who sent your so called childish ‘Eritrean song’ then but you must have forgotten to send it to Zimbabwe instead! only entertains real and relevant stories.

      • k.tewolde November 18, 2017

        Sister,if you are getting your real and relevant news feed from that website,you are consuming a supersized HGDEF combo,burger fries and soda.It will kill you.

        • Mihret November 18, 2017

          Brother, do you also indulge in a childish and ridiculous so called Eritrean song like Z.Hagos? No wonder then we have a dictator man in Eritrea destroying the country and the future of the young generation cruelly. With big men like you two acting like children we’ve no hope of overthrowing the dictator man Esayas. Please grow up fast and act like responsible adults cutting out your childish play games and your junkie foods and drinks. Get real.

  • Efrem T. November 17, 2017

    Does this mean Mengiye (Mengistu H/mariam) would be kicked out of Zimbabwe or follow Mugabe to South Africa as two brutal monkeys refugees? I however admire the Zimbabwean army leaders for handling the situation orderly and intelligently. Robert Mugabe should have left or handed over his powers to his deputy president and to his party after he was honored an international airport in Harare with his name Robert Mugabe International Airport.

    • Efrem T. November 17, 2017

      Sorry I should add “so far” after the ‘handling the situation in Zimbabwe orderly and intelligently’..

  • Habibi November 17, 2017

    The inevitable consequence of any country ruled by a strong man for so many years is that non other than the military can snatch away the power.
    The fact that there are no riots and protest from the side of the Zimbabians shows that they are really fed up of Mugabe.
    The military leaders must be very sensible to request Mugabe to resign from the power that’s practically no more in his hands. The paradox is that he is apparently refusing although he is under house arrest. This will obviously be a luxury he won’t enjoy any longer.
    So far everything seems going smoothly for Zimbabwe but the most decisive factor depends on whether the military will hand over power to the people or drown in it as the Dergue of Ethiopia did.
    Dwelling under military laws is as good as jumping from a frying pan into the fire.

    • alem November 17, 2017

      Bkibret gedifka bhisret zibehal alo. He will go to prison and worse things will happen. He is 93 and does not expect life after this age but his family will head for exile or face imprisonment or death. The whole point behind his refusal with apparent no support from public or regional leaders is he wants immunity from his abuses of power and other illegal activities he engaged for decades and possibly crimes committed.

  • Z. Hagos November 17, 2017

    The Zimbabwean military/officers are not taking their country’s constitution loosely. They are convincing Mugabe to step down. Once he steps down the legal process is going to start. Mugabe, as a president, has immunity or legal protection while in office from being forced to step down.
    Legally, the military appears not in a position to suspend the constitution and arrest Mugabe. If the step by step constricting the power of Mugabe doesn’t work, the Mugabe’s case will be referred to the parliament for final decision. The world is not surprised by the step by step process because the military is expected to protect the constitution and the people.
    Such respect is not expected to be afforded to the tyrant of Eritrea, criminal Isaias, because his rule of the jungle does not give such protection. News from Asmara is indicating that the military is closely following the development in Zimbabwe. The game of the rule of the jungle will not be mercy on the nice officers unless the military takes a lightning action now before Isaias beats them in eliminating the good ones and remaining protected by his criminal partners.

  • zekarias November 17, 2017

    The Eritrean Defense force must be intelligent and discipline Like the Zimbabwean Army when house arresting Tyrant Issayas Afeworki– He is useless old man and no need to cause bloodshed. I know he is planning to hand over power to his Son Abraham Afewerki in a fear of revenge from families of victims in his long ruthless rule which could number into many thousands. Alem Goitom of knows from his heart that there is no much time left for his boss and therefore his own fete in a new Eritrea with a new leadership in a new direction is in question.

  • Danilo November 17, 2017

    On my understanding the military is handling the situation upon constitutional manner not power ambition. It could be exemplar, pin point if incase the eritrean army get a lesson any step should be wise. I mean jangle of law for him belong.

  • Bini November 18, 2017

    Zimbabwe uses wisely and diplomatically its powerful neighbor (South Africa) to get rid dictator Robert Mugabe and also to stabilize Zimbabwe’s economy while poor Eritrea or the so called Eritrean oppositions are unable to use our powerful neighbor Ethiopia or the Sudan wisely and diplomatically to their advantage or to bring positive/lasting solution in Eritrea. It seems Eritreans are quite happy and content to be governed and messed up by DIA and his gangs.

  • Simon hadgu November 18, 2017

    ወኻርያስ ፍረ ነብሲ ናይ ብዕራይ ክወድቕ ጠልጠል ዝበለ ስለ ዝመስል ካብ ሕጂ ሕጂ ወደቐ እናበለት ደድሕሪኡ ክትኮልል ውዓለት ይብሃል..ባባ ኢሳያስ 93 ዓመት ኣይገበረን.ምኽትል ፕረሲደንቱ ድማ ኣብርሃም ወዱ እምበር ሳባ ብዓልቲ ቤቱ ኣይኮነትን..ኣቦይ ሙሳ ኣል ኣኽሪዪን እንተውረድዎ ንጸበ..

  • Hagos Jamil November 19, 2017

    How is that the army has so much respect for Mugabe ? Could somebody elaborate for me ?

    • Danilo November 19, 2017

      You know why the Zimbabwe army respect mugabe is simple to answer. Knowing that mugabe as respected president, elected by vote no matter why became a dictator, the outcome of his wrong ruling ,abuser to the rule of law. I.e, why the army reacted according the constitution and they are asking conciliation to step down.

      • Danilo November 19, 2017

        Un like the “eritrean president “isaiyas not elected by people might be toppled any time wished and no need to consider legal or illegal because Eritrea has no constitution / law to defend any one. Therefore, any action that may happen, has no legality or illegality. If iseyas shoot by one bullet is lucky