Harare, Zimbabwe — Images of several heavily armed light tanks and armored personnel carriers (APCs) were seen all over social media this morning as they raced towards the capital city of Harare in the southern African country of Zimbabwe.
Many local residents fear a military coup d’état in the capital after last week’s political in-fighting reached a flash point–Zimbabwe’s 93-year-old despotic leader Robert Mugabe fired his Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa after what Mugabe considered “traits of disloyalty,” and plotting to seize power through witchcraft. Mnangagwa is believed to have fled to South Africa in exile.
Mugabe has held onto control of Zimbabwe for 37 years since he and his Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) won the war against white minority rule in then-Rhodesia, now-Zimbabwe. Mugabe was initially sworn in as the prime minister until he consolidated his power and established himself as a dictator of sorts in the late 1980s.
Zimbabwe’s Vice President Mnangagwa, who is strongly supported by the military, has been with Mugabe since the “liberation war” and was the most likely successor to Mugabe just prior to being fired by him last week.
Tensions between the now more youthful Mugabe-backed ZANU-PF political party and the majority of the senior Zimbabwean military commanders and “liberation war veterans” have been building for about two years–the main protagonist being none other than the First Lady of Zimbabwe, Grace Mugabe. The First Lady has been integral in getting not only Mnangagwa fired but putting over 100 other senior and mid level military leadership under some sort of Mugabe sanctioned disciplinary actions. This includes some being relived of their command under rumors of plotting against the Mugabe regime.
The First Lady, with the backing of the ZANU-PF Youth League, began to pour honey into the ear of her husband by accusing several within his cabinet of treasonous plots to overthrow him and seize control of Zimbabwe themselves. Mugabe bought these lies and then some. Her final play was to at last remove the most likely successor to power, Mnangagwa and has all but put herself in the position as the future supreme leader of Zimbabwe.
However, the Zimbabwean Army Chief of Staff, Constantino Chiwenga, spoke in a statement reported by Voices of America (VOA) Monday in which he accused the ZANU-PF Youth League and de facto First Lady Mugabe of attempting to “purge liberation veterans,” from the government and that he would “step in” to ease political tensions immediately.
Kudzai Chipanga, leader of the ZANU-PF party’s Youth League replied this morning by saying that the, “youth wing of Zimbabwe‘s ruling party are ready to die for President Robert Mugabe.” He also said that the ZANU-PF Youth League will not allow the Zimbabwean Army to choose the country’s next leader. Chipanga went on to also state that, “We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in.”
Video is real sources tell me, and on several web sites already. Tanks heading into Harare. Not sure if these are show of force for #mugabe or… otherwise. #zimbabwe #harare #zim pic.twitter.com/N4CG0IOt9T
— Robyn Lee Kriel (@robynkrielCNN) November 14, 2017
There are tanks now present on every major thoroughfare into and out of the capital city of Harare, with unconfirmed reporting that at least two APC’s are surrounding a local television station. It really isn’t clear what sort of orders or activities these tanks and APCs are under.
The Mugabes have yet to officially make a statement on the current situation. However, the ZANU-PF took to Twitter and declared that there is no coup attempt and that everyone should just really mind their own business.
Thanks for your concerns, there is NO coup happening in Zimbabwe. Please continue with your lives and face up to your own problems.
— ZANU PF (@zanu_pf) November 14, 2017
Then an official press release followed, claiming that the Zimbabwean military is violating the constitution:
So far there hasn’t been any alerts from any foreign embassies in the city and even the U.S. State Department who replied to requests for information by saying, “We are aware of the reports and are monitoring the situation.” They don’t seem too concerned about this latest in oddities from the Mugabe administration.
So what is the real threat here? “[T]he army is flexing its muscles,” said political analyst, Lance Guma, in an interview with Al Jazeera. “They are telling the civilian government that the army is the real power in the country,” Guma continued, “But I don’t think there is an appetite for coup. The region will not accept that.”
George Shire, another political analyst, added this as well: “ZANU-PF has ruled the country since it gained independence from Britain in 1980, and analysts claimed that that is not about to change. The dominance of ZANU-PF on the political landscape in Zimbabwe is not in question.”
Shire went on to finish by saying, “What you see is really a leadership contest taking place – Zimbabwean style.”
This situation is fluid and SOFREP will continue to monitor the situation as it develops.
Featured image courtesy of: Twitter