Zimbabwe: What’s happening?

Zimbabwe: What’s happening?

A vice president sacked, fears of a Mugabe dynasty, and a military threat. What is happening today in Zimbabwe?

Source: Zimbabwe: What’s happening? | Zimbabwe News | Al Jazeera

There is growing uncertainty in Zimbabwe.

Soldiers on Wednesday took over the headquarters of the state broadcaster ZBC and blocked access to government offices, but the army says this is not a military take over.

President Robert Mugabe, who leads the ruling Zanu-PF party, is safe, an army spokesman has said.

But as yet, there is no official word from the government or the Mugabe family as to their whereabouts.


People queue to draw money outside a bank in Harare, Zimbabwe, November 15,2017 [Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters]

Wednesday, November 15: The latest

Is Grace Mugabe in Namibia?

  • Sky News has reported that, according to sources, Grace Mugabe believed to be in Namibia. Al Jazeera is unable to confirm this report, as yet.
  • Grace is the first lady and is at the centre the crisis.
  • You can read more about Grace Mugabe in a recent pre-crisis feature here.
  • The Namibian Sun, an English-language newspaper, tweeted a statement from the government that did not mention Grace.
  • The statement said Namibia has been following the “unfolding developments in Zimbabwe with concern”.
  • “Namibia is concerned that the present situation in Zimbabwe creates uncertainty that is not conducive to peace, stability and consolidation of democracy in Zimbabwe and the region as a whole.”

Zuma speaks

  • The office of South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has said Mugabe has indicated that “he was confined to his home but said that he was fine”.
  • In a statement posted online, the office said South Africa is in touch with the Zimbabwe military. “President Zuma has reiterated his call for calm and restraint and for the ZDF [military] to ensure that peace and stability are not undermined in Zimbabwe,” the statement said.
  • In his address, which was broadcast later on Wednesday, South African President Zuma said: “Given the seriousness of the situation, I have taken the decision to send an envoy to be able to conduct the leaders of the defence force who have undertaken these operations, but also to meet with President Mugabe so that we have a [clearer] picture of what is happening.”

‘It’s an inside-the-party coup’

  • Professor David Moore, speaking from Johannesburg, told Al Jazeera: “It is an inside-the-party coup. The president has not been deposed. People are being arrested, the G-40 people are being arrested, but the G-40 never had the army in their hands. It’s relatively peaceful so far.” The G-40 is Grace Mugabe’s political faction.
  • On whether or not Mugabe will be deposed, Moore said: “I don’t think Mugabe will be deposed. I think the plan will be as is indicated in Chiwenga’s speech on Monday night to guarantee that the extraordinary congress, which is set up for the end of December this year instead of next year. In other words, before the election of July next year which was planned by G-40. I think Mugabe will see the way the wind is blowing. He’s very, very good at keep his finger to the winds of these conflicts.

Zuma to speak

  • Al Jazeera has learned that South African President Jacob Zuma is expected to speak at 11:00 GMT. We will bring you that speech, as and when it happens, at aljazeera.com/live.
  • There is a significant number of Zimbabweans living in South Africa.
  • Mugabe and Zuma maintain good relations and are close allies.

Foreign guests leave hotel

  • A journalist in Harare, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Al Jazeera that foreign hotel guests at the Cresta Lodge in Harare were leaving.
  • Earlier the US and UK had warned their citizens in Harare against attending demonstrations or discussing the president.

Flights operational

  • Trevor Ncube, a Zimbabwean businessman living in South Africa, said flights in and out of Zimbabwe were operating as usual. Ncube is verified on Twitter, and is a critical voice on Mugabe. “Air Zimbabwe took off for Bulawayo this morning and the SAA flight from Harare landed a while ago,” he tweeted.
  • Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa, reporting from Harare, confirmed that airports were open as usual.

Fears over economy

  • For many Zimbabweans, the first priority was to head to the banks. Images sent to Al Jazeera showed queues of people waiting to be addressed by banking staff on the situation over cash withdrawals.
  • Martin Muradzikwa, a mobile phone shop owner in Harare, told Al Jazeera he feared clashes between soldiers and Mugabe loyalists would break out.
  • Main branches of international banks were closed, due to their proximity to government buildings.


  • Several high-profile, Zanu-PF individuals have been detained and those at large are being pursued, according to reports.

‘No outward panic’

  • Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa, reporting from Harare, said the atmosphere on the streets felt tense. “I don’t think people expected this kind of military takeover. I’m Zimbabwean, I was born after independence from Britain, I’ve never experienced this kind of feeling in the air. At the moment, people are just wondering what is going to happen next.”
  • Mutasa also said, however, that it was business as usual for now. “There’s no outward panic, you’re not seeing people running away or fleeing.”

Newspaper headline: Zanu-PF unfazed

  • Zimbabwean newspaper The Herald ran with the headline: “Zanu-PF unfazed by Chiwenga”, referring to the army general.

Where is Mugabe?

  • As yet, there is no official comment from the government or the Mugabe family as to the president’s whereabouts.

UK, US warns citizens in Harare

  • The US and UK have advised their citizens in Harare, the capital, to stay indoors amid the uncertainty. “You should avoid political activity, or activities which could be considered political, including political discussions in public places and criticism of the president,” Britain warned.
  • The US embassy in Harare tweeted: “Due to ongoing uncertainty in Zimbabwe, the U.S. Embassy in Harare will be minimally staffed and closed to the public on November 15.  Embassy personnel will continue to monitor the situation closely. @StateDept”

Military: We are targeting criminals

  • In a televised address early on Wednesday morning, military spokesperson, Major General SB Moyo, said the army was seeking to “pacify a degenerating, social, and economic situation”, and denied a coup.
  • “We are only targeting criminals around [Mugabe] and are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country, in order to bring them to justice” he said. You can read the statement in full here.

Military seizes state TV

  • On Wednesday, November 15, the Zimbabwe army seized state TV and blocked off access to government offices.
  • This came after reports of explosions and gunfire the previous evening.
A young man washes a minibus adorned with picture of President Robert Mugabe at a bus terminus in Harare [Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters]

What had happened until Wednesday? The backstory

  • Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, an ally of the army chief and a veteran of the country’s struggle for independence, was sacked on November 8 by 93-year-old Mugabe for showing “traits of disloyalty”.
  • Mnangagwa, who fled the country soon after, was seen as a likely successor to the ailing president, and his ousting now appears to pave the way for First Lady Grace Mugabe.
  • Army commander Constantino Chiwenga said on Monday, November 13, that the military would act if purges against former war liberation fighters did not cease.
  • Zanu-PF on November 14 accused the army chief of “treasonable conduct” after he challenged Mugabe over the sacking of the vice president.
  • On Tuesday, November 14, the youth wing of ZANU-PF party, said it was “ready to die” for Mugabe, after the military threat to intervene.
  • There were unconfirmed reports of explosions and shooting in the capital, Harare, on Tuesday evening.
This file photo taken on November 13 shows Chiwenga [Jekesai Njikizana/AFP]

War veterans and Mugabe supporters:

  • War veterans, who fought alongside Mugabe during the 1970s liberation struggle and spearheaded the repossession of white-owned commercial farms in the 2000s, claim Mugabe has betrayed the revolution.
  • The ongoing purges of scores of Mnangagwa allies have widened the rift between the Mugabes and various groups of war veteran leaders.
  • Victor Matemadanda, secretary-general of the Zimbabwe National War Veterans Association, recently told Al Jazeera the ongoing expulsions were a strong indication that Mugabe was acting in his own interests and those of his wife.
Mugabe with his wife, Grace at a youth interface rally in the second city of Bulawayo on November 4 [Tendai Marima/Al Jazeera]