“Only God, who appointed me, will remove me – not the MDC, not the British. Only God will remove me!” — Robert Mugabe boasted at an election rally in 2008, but nine years later, Mugabe was ousted in a military “bloodless coup.” After days of warnings, the military has taken over government of Zimbabwe from 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe in a bloodless coup.
The military coup, if sustained has ended Mugabe’s 37 years of autocratic and one party rule in Zimbabwe, a government, which critics and many global watchers had condemned for its several abuse of democratic norms which made it possible for Mugabe to hold on to power for decades.
More so, 75-year-old former vice-president Mnangagwa, who was a veteran of Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation wars, on his return from exile has been named ZANU PF’s new interim president. The power tussle and political rift between Mugabe and his deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa had hightened tension in Zimbabwe, especially after the sack of the vice president.
The rancour at the seat of government had, on Monday, forced the army chief, General Constantino Chiwenga, to caution the government as it demanded an end to the purge in the ruling Zanu-PF party. He warned the military could intervene.
With the sack of Mnangagwa and purge in government, many political players in Zimbabwe had feared this could clear the way for 52-year-old Mugabe’s wife, Grace, to succeed him.
After the “bloodless transition,” Mugabe and his wife, Grace are said to have been detained by the military authorities after the bloodless transition of power, while the sacked vice president, Mnangagwa, who had been in exile returned to lead an interim government.
Eerlier before its final take over on Wednesday morning, the military, had on Tuesday rolled out their tanks on the streets of Zimbabwe, blocking roads outside the parliament in Harare.
This was followed by a late-night television address delivered by senior soldiers in what was seen as a subtle take over of government from Mugabe.
After the military take over on Wednesday morning, a Twitter account belonging to the country’s ruling party alerted the world that 93-year-old Mugabe and his family were being “detained.”
The party also informed that President Mugabe had been “taken advantage of by his wife,” Grace, who had been seen as a possible successor to her husband.
The United States Embassy in Zimbabwe had ordered its US citizens and employees in Zimbabwe, “to take cover and seek shelter,” while the British citizens have also been advised to stay indoors amid reports of “unusual military activity.”
However, the tweets denied there had been a coup, saying: ‘There has been a decision to intervene because our constitution had been undermined, in the interim Comrade E Mnagngawa will be president of ZANU-PF as per the constitution of our revolutionary organisation.
“Last night the first family was detained and are safe, both for the constitution and the sanity of the nation this was necessary.
“Neither Zimbabwe nor ZANU-PF are owned by Mugabe and his wife. Today begins a fresh new era and comrade Mnangagwa will help us achieve a better Zimbabwe.
“There was no coup, only a bloodless transition which saw corrupt and crooked persons being arrested and an elderly man who had been taken advantage of by his wife being detained.
“The few bangs that were heard were from crooks who were resisting arrest, but they are now detained.’
How the military took over
On Tuesday night Zimbabwe’s military took over control of Zimbabwe’s national broadcaster’s studios, and in a somewhat “friendly” approach, broadcast to the nation it is “targeting criminals” and enemies of government.
Tension had risen in Zimbabwe after Mugabe sacked Vice President Mnangagwa with the military cautioning the nation while citizens lived amid fears of a coup following reports of explosions and gunfire in the capital, Harare after the military rolled out tanks on Tuesday.
The party had accused the military of rolling out tanks into Zimbabwe’s capital Tuesday night, while this threw the nation in political chaos with the army chief accused of attempting a coup.
There had been series of attempts to halt Mugabe’s 37-year grip on power, but it was the sack of his deputy, Mnangagwa popularly known as “The Crocodile” that climaxed the age long attempts.
Over time, Mnangagwa, who has won the trust of the military with a close ties maintained, had been been touted as Mugabe’s natural sucessor, but this was not to happen again, as it was later believed that his sack was for Mugabe to pave the way for his wife, Grace, to succeed him.
ZANU-PF has said it would never succumb to military’s overthrow of government or succumb to its pressure, rather, it accused army chief General Constantino Chiwenga of “treasonable conduct.”
Reports said the military had sealed off the capital city, Harare, including the military headquarters in the city, with no one allowed in or out, with road blocks said to have been placed outside the barracks of the presidential guard.
Reports also said Zimbabwean borders had been sealed and the airport shut, although others insisted reports of a coup had been exaggerated.
General Chiwenga addressed the media in Harare on the “instability” in Zanu-PF, alongside some 90 senior military figures.
Mugabe’s deputy, Mnangagwa, was sacked last week by President Mugabe, along with several other party members.
Further to his sack, the former vice president was also expelled from Zanu-PF, the ruling party where he had served for over 40 years, even as a loyalist of Mugabe.
The army chief, Chiwenga said: “It is with humility and a heavy heart that we come before you to pronounce the indisputable reality that there is instability in Zanu-PF today and as a result anxiety in the country at large,” General Chiwenga said. “We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in.”
“The current purging which is clearly targeting members of the party with liberation (war) backgrounds must stop forthwith.There is distress, trepidation and despondency within the nation.”
The cracks in Mugabe’e government became obvious in August, when clashes were reported in central Harare between the Zimbabwe Republic Police said to be loyal to first lady Grace Mugabe and her allies in a Zanu-PF faction, G40 and soldiers said to be loyal to Mnangagwa.
Not long after this period, Mnangagwa said he was poisoned at a rally addressed by Mugabe, after which he said he was airlifted by a military aircraft to South Africa where he saidhe spent almost two weeks in hospital.
This probably the reason Mnangagwa fled the country immediately he was sacked and dismissed from the party, ZANU-PF by Mugabe. He fled to Johannesburg, South Africa last Wednesday, and on his arrival to the country a week later on Wednesday morning, he was announced the leader of the interim government in a purported transition programme ZANU-PF said it had put in place.