Zimbabwe’s long-time ruler President Robert Mugabe has been put under house arrest by the military.
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Harare, Zimbabwe – At least three explosions were heard early Wednesday (local time) in the capital Harare; armed soldiers and military vehicles were seen in the streets; and a TV station was reportedly taken over.
However, Zimbabwe’s army said it was not mounting a military takeover.
Mr Mugabe has told South African President Jacob Zuma he was confined to his home but otherwise was fine.
In a statement, the army said the security of Mr Mugabe and his wife is “guaranteed”.
Here’s what you need to know to get up to speed.
Mr. Mugabe has been in power for decades
The 93-year-old is the world’s oldest head of state, and he’s the only leader his southern African nation has known since it gained independence from Britain in 1980.
He has become increasingly frail, and there’s an awareness in Zimbabwe that he won’t be around forever.
Frustration has also been growing in the once-prosperous country as the economy collapses. The country was shaken last year by the biggest anti-government protests in a decade.
The military had been a key pillar of Mr Mugabe’s power
Earlier this week, the army commander threatened to intervene to calm political tensions over Mr Mugabe’s possible successor.
That was off the back of Mr Mugabe last week firing Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and accusing him of plotting to take power, including through witchcraft.
Mr Mnangagwa enjoyed the military’s backing and was once seen as a potential president, but he fled the country and said he had been threatened.
Over 100 senior officials allegedly supporting him have been listed for disciplinary measures by a faction of the ruling ZANU-PF party which is associated with Mugabe’s wife, Grace.
The ruling party accused the army commander of ‘treasonable conduct’
It said his comments about a possible military intervention were “clearly calculated to disturb national peace and stability” and were “meant to incite insurrection”.
But it was not clear whether the commander still had his post.
Meanwhile, Grace Mugabe appeared likely to replace Mr Mnangagwa as one of the country’s two vice-presidents
This would happen at a special conference of the ruling party in December, leading many in Zimbabwe to suspect that the 52-year-old could succeed her husband.
The first lady is unpopular with some Zimbabweans because of her lavish spending as many struggle.
Zimbabwe’s citizens don’t appear to be affected
Reports from Harare say citizens have been going about their daily lives, walking past the army’s tanks and armoured personnel carriers to go to work or do the shopping.
“So far so good; we are going about our business without harassment, said Felix Tsanganyiso, who sells mobile airtime vouchers.
“My plea is that whoever takes over should sort out the economy. We are tired of living like this.”
Finally, this isn’t necessarily a coup
That’s the claim being made by the military, but it’s also a view echoed by African Defence Review analyst Conway Waddington.
“Given the past two weeks’ political events, it is tempting to speculate that there is a connection between the deployment of military personnel and the comments of the army chief of staff on an ‘intervention’,” he wrote.
“But there are very real dangers of violence breaking out as a result of rampant and unfounded speculation.”
He said there appeared to be no other signs of an “organised coup” and that it could have been an act of intimidation instead.
Even British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said it wasn’t clear if the events marked the “downfall of Mugabe”.