BY: AISHWARYA GUPTA
On the morning of November 14, 2017, Zimbabwe’s government underwent a dramatic change as the military appeared to take control of the country, putting the longstanding President Robert Mugabe under house arrest and taking control of the state’s broadcasting network. The current state of Zimbabwe’s government seems in flux as it is unclear whether the military will seize complete control of the government or will transition to appoint a new leader. As it currently stands, Grace Mugabe’s rival and former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa is most poised to be the next President of Zimbabwe.
WHY IT MATTERS:
President Mugabe, now 93, has been in power since 1980 with much of his tenure seeing bursts of violence and corruption. Mugabe’s political party, the ZANU-PF, witnessed a rift as Grace Mugabe courted the young faction of the party, while the older party members remained loyal to Mugabe’s vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa. The military actions come a week after Robert Mugabe fired his vice-president, hoping to install his wife as Mnangagwa’s successor. Subsequent to Mnangagwa’s departure, General Constantino Chiwenga, the army commander and a longtime ally of Mr. Mnangagwa, stated the military would not hesitate to step in to “protect the revolution”.
The morning of the takeover, Major General Sibusiso Moyo, went on air to say the military was not taking over the government but looking to target the criminals around President Mugabe. Since the statement, at least one Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo was taken from his home. Although the military is refraining from calling it a coup, the international community seems to be viewing it as one. The leader of the African Union and the President of Guinea, Alpha Conde, said the military in Zimbabwe “had obviously attempted to take power”. Chris Mutsvangwa, leader of the liberation war veterans in the ZANU-PF, called the military’s actions a “correction of a state careening off the cliff,” calling attention to President Robert Zuma’s attempt to set up a dynasty by surrendering his power to his wife and her supporters.
The AU’s Alpha Conde has already made it clear that the AU is looking for a return to constitutional order in Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, South African President Jacob Zuma announced the dispatch of high level envoys to Harare to assess the situation. Political analysts and government officials from Zimbabwe are expecting the military to pressure Mugabe to step down and instate Emmerson Mnangagwa as President, while some believe it is unlikely. Reports have suggested that Mr. Mnangagwa was preparing to fly into Manyame air base, a military facility in Harare. The situation on the ground has remained calm through much of the day as Zimbabweans remain optimistic about their prospect. An ailing economy and rampant corruption have left the Zimbabwean state in shambles and in much need of change. The next steps that the military takes in restoring order and political leadership to the country will be crucial in determining the path forward for Zimbabwe.