How world sees #Zimbabwe: Africa must help as messy endgame threatens regional stability

EDINBURGH — As the world waits to see whether Robert Mugabe has finally been removed from power after 37 years, the Zimbabwean diaspora isn’t popping the champagne corks. The Zimbabwean military has taken control of the broadcaster and has established a strong presence in the streets of Harare. There is an uneasy calm in the capital, with residents stocking up on essentials in case the situation deteriorates. General Constantino Chiwenga, accused of treasonous conduct after he called for a halt to a purge of Zanu-PF leaders allied to sacked vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, says the army is holding Mugabe and his family in a “safe and secure place”. The army is on a mission to clean up criminals who have destroyed the economy, he says. Zimbabwe has been steadily declining over the past two decades. Citizens can no longer access their funds freely in banks, unemployment is rampant and many people are starving – while the corrupt political elite has flaunted its wealth. – Jackie Cameron

By Thulasizwe Sithole

It is not yet clear to the world whether the Zimbabwean military is staging a coup. As the Financial Times reports, by early Wednesday it was “unclear whether the generals were genuinely preparing to take control, or instead staging a show of force”.

Its commentators speculate that this messy endgame for Zimbabwe is a risk to stability in Africa.

“This is more than a crisis in Zimbabwe. If it turns into a conflagration, it would affect the 287m people of Southern Africa.”

The FT notes that it is surprising that regional leaders did not respond when the succession battle started to look ugly.

This week the “outlook looks bleak”. “As the once-monolithic Zanu-PF fractures, the spectre of a breakdown in law and order grows ominously.”

The FT has urged international intervention, led by an African national and backed by the African Union.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace arrive to address a gathering to mark the National Heroes Day celebrations in the capital Harare, Zimbabwe August 8, 2016. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

The army has seized control of the country, but its spokesman has said the country will ‘return to normalcy’ once it has rounded up the “criminals” around President Robert Mugabe who have been causing social and economic suffering.

The London-headquartered Financial Times reports that Zimbabwe’s army has said it is “holding the president for his own safety”.

The army has seized the state broadcaster in the capital of Harare and deployed armoured personnel carriers on key routes, witnesses have told Reuters.

See also: LIVE BLOG: Zimbabwe on the brink as military seizes power, tanks surrounding Harare

Developments follow a purge of allies of Emmerson Mnangagwa, who fled Zimbabwe after he was sacked as vice-president in a move designed to pave the way for Grace Mugabe to take the country’s helm.

‘Gucci Grace’ is unpopular among military personnel, while Mnangagwa, the former security chief, has strong ties to the military and war veterans, reports the Financial Times.

Robert Mugabe’s 37 years ruling Zimbabwe

From the FT:

1980 Mugabe celebrates overwhelming victory in independence elections with a magnanimous speech soothing country’s white minority and Britain, its former colonial power.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe visits the Netherlands in June 1982.

1982 The new president ruthlessly suppresses opposition to his rule in the province of Matabeleland

Late 1990s Mugabe presides over often violent seizure of 4,500 white-owned farms, accelerating decline in the country’s white population

2002 Mugabe wins a presidential election marred by violence. Repression and economic disintegration gather speed, bringing EU sanctions and Zimbabwe’s suspension and subsequent withdrawal from the Commonwealth

2008 Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party loses parliamentary elections to the Movement for Democratic Change, led by former trade unionist Morgan Tsvangirai but Mugabe wins run-off after Tsangvirai pulls out in protest at violence

2009 Regional mediators convince Tsvangirai’s opposition to join Zanu-PF in a unity government, with Mugabe retaining the presidency. Government introduces US dollar as main currency to counter hyperinflation

2013 At the age of 89 Mugabe wins another five-year term as president, with an overwhelming victory over Tsvangirai. The UK, US and EU raise serious concerns over poll’s credibility

2014 Mugabe’s second wife, Grace, elevated to senior position in Zanu-PF despite no previous role in party as president reinforces grip on power Nov 6

2017 Mugabe sacks vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, clearing the way for his wife to take the post Nov 13 After Mnangagwa’s removal, Zimbabwe’s top general warns that the military will not hesitate to step in to end purges against former liberation war fighters

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