2017 Zimbabwean coup d'état
|2017 Zimbabwean coup d'état|
Location of Harare in Zimbabwe
|Government of Zimbabwe and loyal state institutions|
|Commanders and leaders|
President of Zimbabwe
First Lady of Zimbabwe,
and G40 faction leader
On the evening of 14 November 2017, elements of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) gathered around Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, and seized control of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and other areas of the city. The next day, the ZDF issued a statement saying that it was not a coup d'état and that President Robert Mugabe was safe, although the situation would only return to normal after the ZDF had dealt with the "criminals" around Mugabe responsible for the socio-economic problems of Zimbabwe. Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa, phoned Mugabe and confirmed that Mugabe was "fine", but under house arrest.
The coup took place amid tensions in the ruling ZANU–PF party between former Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa (who was backed by the army) and First Lady Grace Mugabe (who was backed by the younger G40 faction) over who would succeed the 93-year-old President Mugabe. A week after Mnangagwa was fired and forced to flee the country, and a day before troops moved into Harare, Zimbabwe Defence Forces chief Constantino Chiwenga issued a statement that purges of senior ZANU–PF officials like Mnangagwa had to stop.
On Sunday, 19 November, Mugabe was replaced as the leader of ZANU–PF by Mnangagwa. However, despite suggestions to the contrary, Mugabe publicly stated that he would not step down as President of Zimbabwe.
Background[edit | edit source]
Early October 2017[edit | edit source]
In the first week of October 2017, tensions between Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Grace Mugabe, two leading figures to replace the 93-year-old Robert Mugabe as President of Zimbabwe, were prominently displayed in the public sphere. Mnangagwa, a protege of Mugabe's who had been his ally since the Zimbabwe War of Independence in the 1960s, said that doctors had confirmed that he had been poisoned during an August 2017 political rally led by the president and had to be airlifted to a hospital in South Africa for treatment. He also pledged his loyalty to the ZANU–PF party and President Mugabe and said that the story spread by his supporters that Grace Mugabe had ordered the poisoning via a dairy farm she controlled was untrue.
Grace Mugabe denied the poisoning claims as ridiculous and rhetorically asked: "Who is Mnangagwa, who is he?" Phelekezela Mphoko, Zimbabwe's other Vice-President, publicly criticised Mnangagwa, saying that his comments about the August incident were part of an attempt to weaken the country, the power of the president, and divide ZANU–PF, since doctors had actually concluded that stale food was to blame.
4–6 October 2017[edit | edit source]
During a planned speech in Harare, Grace Mugabe went off-script to attack Mnangagwa, saying that her supporters were constantly receiving threats that if Mnangagwa did not succeed Mugabe, they would be killed and that the faction backing Mnangagwa was plotting a coup d'état.
At a rally, President Mugabe publicly rebuked Mnangagwa for the first time. At the same rally, Grace Mugabe called him a "coup plotter" and a "coward". The president fired Mnangagwa on 6 November. A statement from Information Minister Simon Khaya-Moyo said that Mnangagwa had "consistently and persistently exhibited traits of disloyalty, disrespect, deceitfulness and unreliability." Two days after his dismissal, Mnangagwa fled to South Africa to escape "incessant threats" against his family. On 8 November 2017, Mnangagwa issued a statement saying that he did not plan to harm Mugabe. He told Mugabe, "You and your cohorts will instead leave ZANU–PF by the will of the people and this we will do in the coming few weeks." Mnangagwa vowed to return and called for members of ZANU–PF to abandon the president. After his exile, more than a hundred of Mnangagwa's alleged senior supporters were targeted for disciplinary sanctions by backers of Grace Mugabe.
Mnangagwa's dismissal essentially left Grace Mugabe and her Generation 40 (G40) faction of younger ZANU–PF officials as the only major contender to succeed Robert Mugabe. Mnangagwa was one of Mugabe's last political allies who had stayed with him since independence in 1980, and had the support of several generals in the Zimbabwean army, who had publicly stated that only a veteran of the war for independence – which would rule out Grace Mugabe – should rule the country. Although Mugabe had depended on support from the military to maintain his rule, in the last few years, he had undertaken a systematic replacement of old veterans from the war of independence in important ZANU–PF party positions with younger officials who did not fight in the war. This move was seen as risky because Grace Mugabe is a divisive figure in Zimbabwe and does not have much support from important ZANU–PF officials from the liberation war era or in the South African region.
13 November 2017[edit | edit source]
Zimbabwean army chief General Constantino Chiwenga called a press conference at the military headquarters where he read a statement saying that the army would intervene if their historical political allies continued to be targeted.  He called recent events "treacherous shenanigans" and said that the military "will not hesitate to step in" if that was necessary to protect the Zimbabwean revolution. Chiwenga also urged people to attend the December 2017 ZANU–PF party congress to exercise their democratic rights and that the party had been infiltrated by counter-revolutionaries. He also said that the infighting and purges in ZANU–PF had led to chaos and "no meaningful development in the country for the past five years." The statement was made with ninety high-ranking officers from important units of the Zimbabwe National Army present to present an image of army unity. The statement was originally broadcast on Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, the state broadcaster, but pulled off the air, though there was no initial official government response.
Timeline of events[edit | edit source]
14 November 2017[edit | edit source]
Military armoured vehicles were spotted on roadways around Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, and drove in convoys through the city. The same day, Kudzanayi Chipanga, the leader of the ruling ZANU–PF party's youth league, which is aligned with Grace Mugabe, said that the Youth League was "ready to die" to try and prevent the army from deposing Mugabe and choosing a new leader, and that the generals should retire if they were unsatisfied with Mugabe's rule and wanted to become politicians. Mugabe attended a weekly meeting of the Zimbabwe cabinet on Tuesday afternoon. In the early evening after the cabinet meeting, Simon Khaya-Moyo spoke for ZANU–PF and accused army chief General Chiwenga of treason and inciting insurrection.
That evening, soldiers took over the Harare offices of the state broadcaster, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), manhandling some of its employees. Workers at the ZBC were later told that they did not have to worry and that the troops were protecting the station. According to the military, the reason for its actions was because the ZBC had been ordered not to broadcast the military's statement on Monday.
Around 10:30pm, Albert Ngulube, director of security of the Zimbabwean Central Intelligence Organisation was arrested by soldiers after leaving Robert Mugabe's home.:6 He was beaten up at the Presidential Guard headquarters and was released on Friday, 17 November for medical treatment at a private hospital in the capital.:6
15 November 2017[edit | edit source]
The army then proceeded to raid twenty other people.:6 Education minister Jonathan Moyo was tipped off by a member of the army on early Wednesday morning and fled to Local Government Saviour Kasukuwere's home with his family.:6 That home was then attacked by the army around 2.30am with gunfire before ceasing and allowing the two families to escape to Mugabe's home.:6 The army also raided Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo's home but they came under fire from his private Israeli security guards.:6 One member of the guard died.:6 Chombo was detained and assaulted by the troops, with $10 million found in the house.:6 Police duties had been restricted and the Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri was missing presumed arrested.:6
At 5 am Major General Sibusiso Moyo, the army chief of staff and an ally of Chiwenga's, spoke on behalf of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces in a broadcast on ZBC. Moyo asserted that it was not a military takeover and that President Mugabe was safe. However the statement also said that the military was "targeting criminals" around Mugabe responsible for the country's socio-economic problems, and that after they achieved their aims, the situation would "return to normalcy". Moyo announced that all military leave was cancelled, soldiers should return to their barracks, security forces should "cooperate for the good of our country", and that "any provocation will be met with an appropriate response". Moyo also said that the independence of the judiciary of Zimbabwe was guaranteed and that citizens should remain calm and avoid unnecessary movement.
After the speech, the military apprehended Ignatius Chombo, the Zimbabwean finance minister and a leader of G40, the pro-Grace Mugabe faction of ZANU–PF. According to South Africa's The Times, other cabinet ministers seized who were leaders in G40 include Jonathan Moyo‚ minister of higher education and Saviour Kasukuwere, minister of local governments.
Also early that morning, gunfire and artillery were heard in the northern suburbs of Harare, where many government officials, including the president, have their residences. According to Agence France-Presse, a witness heard sustained gunfire near Mugabe's private home in the suburb of Borrowdale. Reuters reported an explosion close to the main campus of the University of Zimbabwe. Soldiers also blocked access to the Parliament of Zimbabwe, government buildings, courthouses, and the president's official residence in Harare. It was reported that two journalists were assaulted by the military whilst covering the coup, and hospitalised.
The military announced a press conference for Wednesday morning, where it was expected that the officers leading the coup would present a deal with President Mugabe that settled his fate and that of his allies. However, the conference was delayed and then cancelled outright, possibly because of a breakdown in negotiations between Mugabe and the military.
For most of Wednesday morning, state-controlled television and radio stations simply rebroadcast Major General Moyo's statement without further news updates, and played patriotic songs from the 1980s about independence alongside normal programming. State-owned newspaper The Herald ran headlines downplaying the military's actions and its website ran a live blog under the headline "Live and developing: No Military Takeover in Zim."
By Wednesday afternoon, the roadblocks around key government buildings in Harare had been removed, armoured vehicles were off the streets, and there was no longer extra security in the Borrowdale suburb, where most senior officials had their private homes. Although there was less overall traffic in the city, ordinary activities like school, administrative offices, and businesses returned to normal. Outside Harare, including Bulawayo, the country's second-largest city, Zimbabweans experienced little to no added military presence.
The same day, ZBC broadcast an apology from ZANU–PF youth wing leader Chipanga to General Chiwenga, whom he had criticised the day before. Chipanga said that he made his statement voluntarily and that he and other members of the youth league "are still young and make mistakes".
Morgan Tsvangirai, the former Prime Minister and leader of the main opposition party Movement for Democratic Change – Tsvangirai, returned from receiving cancer treatments abroad, according to his spokesperson. Soon after his return to the country, Tsvangirai called for Mugabe to step down.
16–18 November 2017[edit | edit source]
On 16 November 2017, ZANU–PF MP and government minister Paul Chimedza was arrested at an army roadblock in Bubi while attempting to flee to South Africa. In Harare, armoured vehicles remained at key locations.
On 18 November 2017, there were well-attended and exuberant but peaceful public demonstrations in Harare and in all major towns in the country, supporting the actions of the army and celebrating the apparent end of Mugabe's presidency. Demonstrators also massed outside his office calling on him to quit. Protesters booed and jeered a motorcade that left Mugabe's residence, although a security source stated that Mugabe was not travelling.
19 November 2017[edit | edit source]
On 19 November 2017, Mugabe was sacked by his party. However, in a speech delivered in Harare, and broadcast on state television around the country, Mugabe ignored the party's actions and the political pressure around him, declining to resign and saying he would preside over the upcoming party conference. ZANU-PF issued Mugabe a deadline of noon on 20 November to resign or face impeachment.
Mugabe's house arrest and negotiations with the military[edit | edit source]
Major General Moyo's initial statement said that "Mugabe and his family are safe and sound, and their security is guaranteed", indicating that President Mugabe and Grace Mugabe were likely both under military custody, though no clarifications were initially issued. South African President Jacob Zuma said that Robert Mugabe had been placed under house arrest by the Zimbabwe military. Mugabe told Zuma in a phone call that he was fine but was unable to leave his home.
Sky News reported that there were unconfirmed reports that Grace Mugabe had fled to Namibia. The Guardian also initially cited unconfirmed reports that she was in Namibia for a business trip, but later reported that she was apparently in detention with the rest of the family. On 15 November, Namibia neither confirmed nor denied the reports that Grace Mugabe was in the country. However, on 16 November, state-owned newspaper New Era quoted Namibian deputy prime minister, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah denying that Grace Mugabe was in the country.
On Wednesday, 15 November, South African Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and State Security Minister Bongani Bongo arrived at the Harare airport but were not allowed to leave the airport until the evening when they were allowed to move to a hotel.:6 On Thursday, 16 November Mugabe was at Harare's State House to participate in talks with General Chiwenga and the two envoys from the Southern African Development Community over a transition of power. His friend and Catholic priest Father Fidelis Mukonori acted as a mediator. According to sources referred to by The Daily Telegraph and BBC News, Mugabe and his allies do not support his voluntary resignation before the end of his presidential term, which would coincide with the planned general election in 2018. That same day, The Independent reported that ZANU–PF leaders planned to meet the next day to draft a resolution dismissing Mugabe as President on 19 November and impeaching him on 21 November if he refuses to step down.
On Sunday, 19 November, Mugabe was sacked as leader of ZANU–PF, and Emmerson Mnangagwa, the former Zimbabwean Vice President, appointed in his place. Reports emerged that Mugabe was on hunger strike, refusing to voluntarily step down as President of Zimbabwe. Reports later that day suggested that Mugabe would resign during a television address that evening. However, during that address he said that he would remain as president.
Reactions[edit | edit source]
This section contains too many or too-lengthy quotations for an encyclopedic entry. (November 2017)
Domestic[edit | edit source]
Nelson Chamisa, the deputy leader of the Movement for Democratic Change – Tsvangirai, the main opposition party in Zimbabwe, called for "peace, constitutionalism, democratization, the rule of law and the sanctity of human life". Tendai Biti, the leader of another opposition party, called for a "roadmap back to legitimacy" through a transitional government and dialogue with regional organisations. Evan Mawarire, a pastor and civic activist who had been arrested during the 2016-17 protests, asked citizens to "remain calm and hopeful, alert but prayerful" and that the crisis was "the culmination" of citizen activist work. Christopher Mutsvangwa, leader of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association and an ally of Mnangagwa, praised Army General Constantino Chiwenga for "a bloodless correction of gross abuse of power" and hoped that the army would restore a "genuine democracy" to Zimbabwe. Former Vice-President Joice Mujuru called for a transitional government focusing on economic recovery and electoral reform.
International[edit | edit source]
African[edit | edit source]
Jacob Zuma, the President of South Africa, phoned Mugabe and confirmed his house arrest. Zuma also asked for calm and a transition that was in accordance with the Constitution of Zimbabwe. He also sent a ministerial-level envoy to talk with the leaders of the Zimbabwe military. Julius Malema, the leader of the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters party and previously a Mugabe supporter, voiced support for the army's initiative. He tweeted: "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." Mmusi Maimane, the leader of the Democratic Alliance party simply stated that Mugabe must step down and called him a dictator. He also called for the democratic process to be upheld. Nedbank, a major South African bank, sent home several of its South African employees working for its Zimbabwean subsidiary, MBCA Bank.
Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah, the Foreign Minister of Namibia, said that the incident "creates uncertainty that is not conducive to peace, stability, and consolidation of democracy in Zimbabwe and the region as a whole" and said that Namibia expected that democratic institutions in Zimbabwe would continue to function under its constitution. Nandi-Ndaitwah also said that the Namibian government expected Zimbabwe to abide by the Southern African Development Community's Treaty on Governance and the African Union Constitutive Act. On 16 November, Namibia denied reports that Grace Mugabe was in the country.
Alpha Condé, the President of Guinea and the leader of the African Union, expressed concern over "soldiers trying to take power by force"; Condé called upon "all stakeholders to show responsibility and restraint" and for the restoration of "constitutional order" in Zimbabwe. Edgar Lungu, the President of Zambia, condemned the coup saying that it "is not in tune with modern politics". While Abdelaziz Benali Cherif, the Foreign Minister of Algeria, called for respect for Zimbabwe's constitutional order. Fatoumata Tambajang, Vice-President of the Gambia, called for dialogue between the military and political leadership to solve the crisis.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) held an urgent meeting at the SADC headquarters in Gaborone on 16 November. The meeting was called by Zuma and is expected to be attended by the leaders of Angola, Tanzania, and Zambia.
Non-African[edit | edit source]
Foreign embassies, including the American, Canadian, British, and Dutch embassies in Harare, issued warnings to citizens of their countries to stay indoors because of the military activity in the city. A German spokesperson for the Federal Foreign Office told a press conference in Berlin that "We see developments there with concern...The situation there is confusing and unclear." British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called "for everybody to refrain from violence" and stated that "everybody wants to see a stable and successful Zimbabwe."
While Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull characterised the Mugabe regime as a dictatorship, the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade upgraded its travel advice, warning Australians to reconsider travelling to the country. The Chinese Foreign Ministry claimed that a meeting which occurred on 10 November between General Chiwenga and Chinese defence minister Chang Wanquan was innocuous and that China hoped that "the relevant parties in Zimbabwe [would] appropriately handle their internal matters".
Antonio Guterres, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, through his deputy spokesperson, Farhan Haq, encouraged peace and resolution through negotiation within the workings of Zimbabwean Constitution. The UN also acknowledged the efforts of the SADC in resolving the crisis. European Commission spokesperson Catherine Ray stated that the coup "is a matter of concern for the EU" and called for "peaceful resolution."
Deputy Russian Prime Minister Yury Trutnev, on a visit to Southern Africa, directly blamed President Robert Mugabe for getting himself into trouble by failing to address the socioeconomic issues of the country which have left Zimbabweans impoverished and angry.
Markets[edit | edit source]
Analysis[edit | edit source]
Derek Matyszak, an analyst from the Institute for Security Studies, said that it was rare to see tanks on Zimbabwe's roads, and that their mere presence meant that the country was "entering new territory." According to Nii Akuetteh, an African policy analyst, the army's decision to present its actions as not being a coup was to avoid garnering opposition to their actions.
Brian Latham, a journalist with Bloomberg, judged that the future succession to Mugabe would be determined by four power brokers in the Zimbabwe elite. In addition to Emmerson Mnangagwa and Constantine Chiwenga, Latham also deemed that the influence of Lieutenant-General Philip Valerio Sibanda and Air Marshal Perence Shiri would be decisive.
See also[edit | edit source]
- Constitution of Zimbabwe#Presidential Succession
- 2007 Zimbabwean alleged coup d'état attempt
- 2016–17 Zimbabwe protests
- 2016–17 Zimbabwe floods
- Zimbabwean general election, 2018
References[edit | edit source]
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