Along with the early morning mist, a mood of quiet elation enveloped Harare as news spread that
President Mugabe was under house arrest

 

DURING the night of 14-15
November Zimbabwe Defence
Forces soldiers were posted to
strategic points in the capital, such
as the police headquarters, the
Central Intelligence Organisation,
the Zimbabwe Broadcasting
Corporation and The Herald
newspaper. The lead authors of
the military action – sacked Vice-
President Emmerson Mnangagwa
and General Constantino Chiwenga
– had prepared the ground for the
operation and troops encountered
little resistance at the barracks
of the Presidential Guard and its
commander Brigadier-General
Anselem Sanyatwe. Neutralising
them was the first part of the military
action, we understand.
Although the action was triggered
by the sacking of Mnangagwa
on 6 November (see chronology,
Zimbabwe’s week of upheaval), it
had been planned several weeks
earlier, with senior officers consulting
South African and Chinese officials.
Within Zimbabwe, security was
tighter still amid concerns that
the CIO had been monitoring the
movements of Chiwenga and other
top officers.
In South Africa, Mnangagwa,
Chiwenga and Chris Mutsvangwa,
the ‘war veterans’ leader and former
ambassador to China, talked to
local security officials about the
implications of their military action
in Harare. We understand they were
given assurances of non-intervention
by South Africa so long as the action
didn’t spill over the borders and
remained ‘broadly constitutional’.
Chiwenga and Mnangagwa promised
to find a way to avoid the action being
stigmatised as a military coup by the
African Union or the Southern African
Development Community.
For that reason, Zimbabwe’s top
officers kept emphasising that it was
‘not a military takeover’ and that it
was not aimed at President Robert
Mugabe, ‘only targeting criminals
around him’, despite all the evidence
to the contrary, including reports of
arrangements for Mugabe to leave the
country.
As Chiwenga and Mnangagwa try
to consolidate power, they may seek
to use the forthcoming congress of
the ruling party Zimbabwe African
National Union-Patriotic Front next
month to win an imprimatur for the
transition, and Mnangagwa’s role
as leader. The action could hardly
have come at a worse time for the

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DURING the night of 14-15
November Zimbabwe Defence
Forces soldiers were posted to
strategic points in the capital, such
as the police headquarters, the
Central Intelligence Organisation,
the Zimbabwe Broadcasting
Corporation and The Herald
newspaper. The lead authors of
the military action – sacked Vice-
President Emmerson Mnangagwa
and General Constantino Chiwenga
– had prepared the ground for the
operation and troops encountered
little resistance at the barracks
of the Presidential Guard and its
commander Brigadier-General
Anselem Sanyatwe. Neutralising
them was the first part of the military
action, we understand.
Although the action was triggered
by the sacking of Mnangagwa
on 6 November (see chronology,
Zimbabwe’s week of upheaval), it
had been planned several weeks
earlier, with senior officers consulting
South African and Chinese officials.
Within Zimbabwe, security was
tighter still amid concerns that
the CIO had been monitoring the
movements of Chiwenga and other
top officers.
In South Africa, Mnangagwa,
Chiwenga and Chris Mutsvangwa,
the ‘war veterans’ leader and former
ambassador to China, talked to
local security officials about the
implications of their military action
in Harare. We understand they were
given assurances of non-intervention
by South Africa so long as the action
didn’t spill over the borders and
remained ‘broadly constitutional’.
Chiwenga and Mnangagwa promised
to find a way to avoid the action being
stigmatised as a military coup by the
African Union or the Southern African
Development Community.
For that reason, Zimbabwe’s top
officers kept emphasising that it was
‘not a military takeover’ and that it
was not aimed at President Robert
Mugabe, ‘only targeting criminals
around him’, despite all the evidence
to the contrary, including reports of
arrangements for Mugabe to leave the
country.
As Chiwenga and Mnangagwa try
to consolidate power, they may seek
to use the forthcoming congress of
the ruling party Zimbabwe African
National Union-Patriotic Front next
month to win an imprimatur for the
transition, and Mnangagwa’s role
as leader. The action could hardly
have come at a worse time for the
opposition, which is fractious and
on the back foot.
There are signs that veteran
Movement for Democratic Change
leader Morgan Tsvangirai has
been offered a role in a transitional
government along with Joice Mujuru,
who was sacked as Vice-President
three years ago. Such a move could
buy the new order some time and
perhaps trigger an inflow of new
money into the sinking economy.
Most Zimbabweans were treating
the military action as an internal
ZANU-PF affair. Opposition
activists were struggling to produce
a coherent response to the military
takeover: alternately glad to see
the demise of the Mugabe regime,
but with grave concerns about the
chances of a democratic transition.
Military movements in the capital
were disciplined and professional, as
if the soldiers were acting according
to a rehearsed plan.

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