After 38 years of holding on to power, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe is now facing one of the greatest threats to his reign after the Zimbabwean military detained him on Tuesday in what General Constantino Chiwenga, who led the operation, has termed as a “bloodless transition”.
Mugabe’s detention has been confirmed by the South African President Jacob Zuma, saying that Mr. Mugabe is under house arrest. Several members of the Zimbabwean cabinet have also been arrested, with the military branding them as “crooks” and “criminals”.
“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,” Mugabe’s political party ZANU PF said in a statement.
The party further went on to disown President Mugabe and his wife Grace Mugabe, saying Zimbabwe deserves a fresh start.
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 are owned by Mugabe and his wife. Today begins a fresh new era and comrade Mnangagwa will help us achieve a better Zimbabwe.
— ZANU PF (@zanu_pf) November 15, 2017
Among those arrested is the country’s Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo, who is said to have been in charge of a member of the so-called ‘G40’ faction of ZANU-PF, led by Grace Mugabe with the aim of succeeding the elderly Mugabe.
The overnight operation included the capture of the state broadcaster ZBC, which has been the mouthpiece of ZANU-PF. The military then announced that it was taking over the government.
Shortly after the announcement, Reuters reported three explosions in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare. But no casualties have been reported so far.
The coup comes a few days after President Mugabe unceremoniously sacked his longtime deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa, with rumors indicating that the 93-year-old President was planning to name his wife Grace as the new VP.
A few weeks before his firing, the deposed vice-president was allegedly poisoned with a radioactive substance. The opposition insisted that Mnangagwa had been poisoned by jealous ZANU-PF members who didn’t want him to take over from Mugabe.
Mnangagwa, who had fled to South Africa last week, is reported to have jetted back into the country on Thursday morning, where he urged Zimbabweans to remain calm, promising to make further announcement in due course.
While in exile, the former VP had promised to return to Zimbabwe to lead.
“I will fight tooth and nail…You and your cohorts will instead leave Zanu-PF,” Mnangagwa was quoted by the local media.
Today, ZANU-PF’s Twitter handle, which appears to have been taken over by Mnangagwa’s loyalists, has announced that Mnangagwa is taking over as the party’s interim president.
Zimbabwe has not had a coup. 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.
— ZANU PF (@zanu_pf) November 15, 2017
Several regional leaders have welcomed the coup, saying the South African nation needs fresh leadership.
Someone had to do something, the army should make sure that there is no loss of life however anyone seeking to undermine this transition should be dealt with decisively. Finally free and stable Zimbabwe is coming in our life time.✊?✊?✊?
— Julius Sello Malema (@Julius_S_Malema) November 15, 2017
Latest reports also suggest that the Zimbabwean First Lady Grace Mugabe may have fled the country to neighboring Namibia.
Robert Mugabe has been the President of Zimbabwe since 1980 when the country gained independence. The 93-year-old head of state has been accused of running down the country’s economy and allowing his relatives and friends to loot the public coffers.
Earlier this year, ZANU-PF nominated Mugabe as its flag bearer in the 2018 presidential elections. All eyes are now on the Zimbabwean military, with some countries like the U.S. and the U.K. advising their citizens to be cautious when traveling to Zimbabwe.