Thursday 16 November 2017


On Harare’s streets, many expressed amazement and delight Wednesday that President Robert Mugabe’s long reign may be coming to a close, but people also admitted the future looked unstable.

Mugabe, 93, has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980 — longer than many can remember — and the sudden move against him by the military left some hoping that his repressive regime would soon fall.

“We are happy with what has been done,” Keresenzia Moyo, 65, a housewife told AFP after visiting a hospital in the capital.

“We needed change. Our situation has been pathetic. The economy has been in the doldrums for a very long time.

“What is good is that this has happened at the top and it is not affecting us people on the ground. People could be killing each other.”

Moyo said that she was not against Mugabe being allowed safe passage out of the country — despite his tenure being marked by brutal repression of dissent, corruption and election vote-rigging.

Mugabe, who is under house arrest after the military took control, led Zimbabwe to independence.

But his decades in power have turned a country once known as the breadbasket of Africa for its bountiful produce, into an economic basket case where many go hungry.

“What we want is for our children to be able to get jobs and live a normal happy life,” Moyo said.

“We want to have food on the table, not one side having everything and others dying of hunger. Mugabe was once a good person but he lost it. Now we need a fresh start.”

“We don’t know what this all means and we don’t know what to do,” student Karen Mvelani, 21, told AFP.

“We need some kind of direction on where we are heading.”

The visible impact of the momentous political upheaval was limited in Harare, with many people shopping at street markets, catching mini-buses to work or lining up outside banks as normal.

The country’s economic crisis has caused a severe cash shortage and sharply rising prices, for which many Zimbabweans blame Mugabe.

“He was a liability to the country because he was focusing on his leadership, he was a dictator,” said Tafadzwa Masango, a 35-year-old unemployed man.

“Our economic situation has deteriorated every day — no employment, no jobs,” he said. “We hope for a better Zimbabwe after the Mugabe era.

“We feel very happy. It is now his time to go.”

Mugabe sacked vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa last week, seemingly provoking the intervention of the military, which reportedly opposed First Lady Grace Mugabe’s emergence as the likely next president.

Precious Shumba, director of Harare Residents Trust action group, said Zimbabwe was entering “a new phase”.

“Now at least we break with the past,” she said. “My wish is that they immediately announce a transitional government and state clearly when the country will have the next elections.

“We need a transitional government to rid the country of the toxic politics of patronage, corruption and nepotism.”


A President held incommunicado, arrests of “criminals”, and an army General in charge: If it walks, talks, and smells like a coup d’état, despite Zimbabwe Defence Forces commander General Constantino Chiwenga’s stoutest protestations to the contrary, it’s probably a coup d’état.

The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) 2016 document titled Chapter Nine: Sub-Saharan Africa, The Military Balance, found the Zimbabwean defence force to consist of 29 000 army regulars, with a 4 000-strong air force and 21 800 people in a paramilitary role.

“However, Zimbabwe’s limited quantitative and qualitative military capabilities have eroded further due to economic problems. China has been the only source of defence equipment for the country’s limited number of procurements,” stated the IISS.

“Both the EU and the US have arms embargoes in place which, the air-force commander acknowledged, have reduced air-force readiness.”

With the Southern African Development Community (SADC) the only legal option for the continent to deal with the Zimbabwe problem should it go further south, it’s unlikely Zimbabwe could withstand a protracted assault by SADC forces from Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Angola among others.

Still, unconfirmed reports suggested that Zimbabwe appeared to have flexed its sovereignty by thumbing its nose at President Jacob Zuma’s SADC by allegedly turning back his delegation consisting of Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and Minister of State Security advocate Bongani Bongo to Zimbabwe, who were supposed to meet with President Robert Mugabe and the Zimbabwean Defence Force.

Presidency spokesperson Dr Bongani Ngqulunga did not respond to repeated attempts for comment.

In 2014 DefenceWeb wrote the Zimbabwean military was believed “to have some of the most adept and well-trained soldiers in Africa, partly as a result of their training from a variety of different international armies.”

“After independence the armed forces were trained by the British and since then the government has relied heavily on training programmes as offered through China and North Korea,” noted DefenceWeb.

It found further Zimbabwe was facing a crisis with experienced veterans leaving due to age.

“Another factor hampering the army’s development is the prevalence of HIV/AIDS through its ranks. Zimbabwe’s military is also hampered by the country’s weak economy; as such wage issues often plague the armed forces,” it stated.

Derek Matyszak, an ISS senior research consultant based in Harare said on Wednesday that the military had assumed control of key buildings and installations such as the broadcasting service and the airport.

“What the military are saying is that there has not been a coup in Zimbabwe,” said Matyszak.

“On Monday the commander of the defence forces issued a statement saying the military is bound by the constitution to protect the country and then making a common conflation between State and the ruling Zanu-PF party. He went on to say that when Zanu-PF as a political party was under threat, that places the country under threat and the military has a duty to intervene.”

Matyszak said there was information the key leaders of the “G40” political faction may have been arrested.

The G40 is believed to consist of Grace Mugabe, ZanuPF national youth league president Kudzai Chipanga, national police commissioner Augustine Chihuri, minister of higher and tertiary education professor Jonathan Moyo, minister of environment, water and climate Saviour Kasukuwere and finance minister Ignatius Chombo.

Chiwenga had earlier criticised Mugabe for firing vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, believed to be Garace Mugabe’s closest opposition to taking over as president.

It is understood Chiwenga’s self-declared mission had by yesterday afternoon netted Deputy Director Central Intelligence Organisation Albert Ngulube, Chipanga, and Chihuri.

Zimbabwe Communist Party secretary general Ngqabutho Mabhena confirmed Chipanga had been arrested and told The Citizen the army was patrolling Harare’s streets.

“The military has basically taken over,” said Mabhena.

“It doesn’t concern us we have not heard from President Mugabe yet. However, the failure to resolve the succession question in Zanu-PF has created these conditions where the military has taken over.”

Chiwenga’s spokesperson Major General Sibusiso Moyo said on the State broadcaster yesterday the military was “only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice.”

“As soon as we have accomplished our mission we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.”

Mabhena called for all Zimbabweans to work together to return to Constitutional rule.AFP/ANA


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