Tanks rolled into Harare on Tuesday and by Wednesday, the military took over the presidential compound, state broadcaster and airport. The president and his wife are under house arrest.
Tension has been brewing in the impoverished southern African state for years but matters came to a head after President Robert Mugabe sacked vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa on November 8, for showing “traits of disloyalty.”
At 93, Mugabe is the oldest world leader and Mnangagwa was seen as potential successor. However, Mugabe and his allies want First Lady Grace Mugabe to take over.
On Monday, a top army commander Constantino Chiwenga warned that the military would act if Mugabe continued to purge top Zanu-PF leaders. TRT WORLD spoke to the Institute for Security Studies’ Zimbabwe analyst, Derek Matyszak.
Zimbabwe has been in turmoil for years, why a power grab now?
“Things have come to a head because there is growing frustration that Mugabe is establishing a dynasty and is pushing his wife Grace Mugabe to the forefront of Zanu-PF’s leadership."
"After the dismissal of the vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, there was concern that there was a real possibility of Grace taking over."
"She is clearly unsuitable to many Zimbabweans and members of the ruling party. She has made her greed and banality obvious. She’s also intemperate and it was obvious her only qualification to hold office was the fact that she is the married to the president.”
Did Grace Mugabe’s political ambitions push Zimbabweans over the edge?
“It played a huge factor."
"Mugabe has for decades occupied enormous power and this power only increased."
"He has the ability to say to anyone ‘You are fired.’"
"People know that it is ‘Cold outside the party and the government and you are poor outside the party’. Showing allegiance was the only way to progress."
"Mugabe’s modus operandi was one of patronage and repression. Government officials were virtually encouraged to engage in corrupt activities."
"Therefore, ensuring Grace does not get into power, is their only way to protect their interests.”
Where to from here?
“Many people are relieved that the Mugabe era is coming to an end. But the person who looks set to take over, Mnangagwa, has an abysmal human rights record. The army commander who is behind the coup, was also responsible for making sure Mugabe stayed in power after losing the 2008 elections."
"Certainly the main players may not be in a position to provide Zimbabwe with a welcome prospect after Mugabe."
Who is the military acting on behalf of?
“The military is acting on behalf of the group that is called 'Lacoste' after the fashion label that uses a crocodile as its emblem. They follow Mnangagwa, who is nick-named the 'crocodile.'"
"The other faction in Zimbabwean politics is called the G40, a younger group that follows Grace Mugabe.”
How is the region likely to react?
“South Africa has the most to lose if the situation in Zimbabwe worsens. President Jacob Zuma has called on the military not to use violence and its highly possible that he may want to set up a task team to intervene."
"Zimbabweans were not happy in 2008 when former South African President Thabo Mbeki failed to intervene when Mugabe continued to hold onto power after being voted out.”
How much can Mnangagwa achieve if he replaces Mugabe?
“The big problem is that he is not a democrat and has a record of taking undemocratic decisions."
"Mnangagwa has recently been presenting himself as an economic pragmatist who can transform Zimbabwe’s economy. But that’s a challenge as Zimbabwe is on the verge of an economic meltdown.”
How will this shape Zimbabwe’s political landscape?
“There is no strong opposition in Zimbabwe and the greatest hope is for strong partnerships to come out of this that can rescue the economy."
"This definitely has to be what the Movement for Democratic Change (an opposition party) and the international community will want to see."
"They will be waiting to see if Mnangagwa will follow political logic or take all power.”