Zimbabwe military takeover: What we know so far


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 takeover.

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

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

South African President Jacob Zuma said he talked to his close ally Mugabe, who told him he is safe but confined to his home.

The unfolding crisis comes amid an apparent bid to expand the Mugabe dynasty.

First Lady Grace Mugabe is said to be eyeing the vice presidency after President Mugabe sacked Emmerson Mnangagwa, an ally of the army, on November 8.

In Harare, hope and uncertainty after army takeover

Who are the key players in the Zimbabwe crisis?

How are people in Zimbabwe and the world reacting? 

Profile: Who is Robert Mugabe?

Read the military’s statement in full

Robert Mugabe’s most famous quotes

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

Wednesday, November 15: The latest

Zimbabwean lawmaker: Army takeover constitutional

  • A Zimbabwean legislator has claimed the move by the country’s military to seize power and “confine President Robert Mugabe to his house” is constitutional.
  • Temba Mliswa, an independent member of parliament, said the army took power because of instability in the country caused by First Lady Grace Mugabe.
  • “For some outside the country it is bad news, but for those in Zimbabwe, it is good news because this is a timely intervention by the military and it is constitutional,” Mliswa told Al Jazeera.
  • “The constitution clearly talks about the role of the military in terms of being the ones to protect the national security, interest and territorial integrity of the country. They are within their gambit to do what they are doing because there was instability in the country as a result of the first lady usurping powers from the president.
  • “The people of Zimbabwe elected Robert Mugabe as president, not Grace Mugabe. The military are there to restore law and order.”

In Harare, uncertainty and optimism after army takeover

On the streets of Zimbabwe’s capital, guarded optimism and concern about the future dominate discussions after the army’s seizure of power. Read more here.

AU: Zimbabwe crisis ‘seems like a coup’

  • The African Union (AU) chief said the political crisis in Zimbabwe “seems like a coup”, while calling on the military to restore constitutional order.
  • Alpha Conde, who is also Guinea’s president, said the AU condemned the actions of army leaders in the country as “clearly soldiers trying to take power by force”.
  • “The African Union expresses its serious concern regarding the situation unfolding in Zimbabwe,” he said in a statement on Wednesday.

Amnesty calls on army to safeguard people’s rights

  • Amnesty International, the global advocacy group, has called on Zimbabwe’s army to protect the rights of people during the current political uncertainty.
  • “It is essential that the military ensure the safety and security of all people in Zimbabwe – regardless of their political allegiance – and refrain from any action that puts lives and human rights at risk,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty’s Southern Africa director.
  • “The military takeover should not be used as an excuse to undermine Zimbabwe’s international and regional human rights obligations and commitments.”

Who’s who?

  • We have explained who’s who in the Zimbabwe crisis, from the Mugabes and sacked Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to the army and the war veterans. Read more here.

UK’s Boris Johnson: Nobody wants to see transition from one unelected tyrant to next

  • Boris Johnson, Britain’s foreign secretary, said in a statement: “It’s hard to say exactly how this will turn out. Everybody wants to see a stable and successful Zimbabwe. We are appealing for everyone to refrain from violence, that is the crucial thing.”
  • Earlier in parliament, he had a more colourful tone saying: “Nobody wants simply to see the transition from one unelected tyrant to a next.”

SADC weighs in

  • The Southern African Development Community (SADC), a regional body, said it has noted the political situation in Zimbabwe with “great concern”, adding it hopes the situation “will not lead to unconstitutional changes of government”.
  • SADC called on the army and government to solve the crisis “amicably”.
  • Earlier, South African President Zuma, in his capacity as SADC chairman, said he was sending special envoys to Zimbabwe and Angola in light of the crisis. Angola chairs SADC’s peace and security arm.

Opposition member: Zimbabweans are happy

  • Lovemore Chinoputsa, a member of the opposition Movement For Democratic Change (MDC) party, said earlier on Wednesday: “It’s a sign of relief to Zimbabweans. From the look of things, Zimbabweans are happy that there has been a stop to the family dynasty agenda that was being propagated by Robert Mugabe and his wife.”
  • MDC on Tuesday called on people to defend civilian rule in the country following the army’s threat.

War veterans support army, say Zanu-PF ‘taken back’

  • The war veterans met earlier in the day and gave a press conference.
  • “We urge that Robert Gabriel Mugabe should be recalled from his role as the president and first secretary of ZANU-PF. We also want to facilitate good and proper running of political parties in the forthcoming elections,” said Victor Matemadanda, the war veterans’ leader.
  • “On the streets, people are waiting to see if this is going to happen,” said Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa in Harare.
  • War veterans, who fought alongside Mugabe during the 1970s struggle for liberation against Britain and spearheaded the repossession of white-owned commercial farms in the 2000s, regularly claim that Mugabe has betrayed the revolution.
Secretary-General of Zimbabwe’s War Veterans Association, Victor Matemadanda, addresses a news conference [Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters]

‘No military takeover’

  • The Herald newspaper released a special edition, given the dramatic events of the day.
  • The afternoon edition’s headline is: “The Herald: No military takeover”
  • An earlier edition read: “Zanu-PF unfazed by Chiwenga”, referring to the army commander who has challenged Mugabe.

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 to Mugabe

  • 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[ing] 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.
Armed soldiers on the road leading to Mugabe’s office in Harare [Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/The Associated Press]

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]



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