DAMASCUS, SYRIA (10:30 PM) – Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has reportedly been detained in his home by troops of the Zimbabwean National Army (ZNA), as the army has apparently seized control of much of the capital city of Harare.
In an official announcement made by top ZNA officers, the armed forces claimed that they were not undertaking a coup against the government, but rather targeting “criminals” surrounding President Mugabe. The statement further read that the president himself is “safe and sound” and detained in his private abode.
The officers further denied any allegations of a takeover of power, describing the situation as a “bloodless transition” instead. However, reports have surfaced of explosions and gunshots that were heard during the takeover of the state broadcasting agency in the capital. Also, Minister of Finance Ignatius Chombo has reportedly been arrested after a shootout took place near his house.
Grace Mugabe, the President’s wife and widely expected future candidate for Zimbabwe’s presidency, has allegedly left the country for Namibia, while recently sacked Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has returned to Zimbabwe from his self-imposed exile in South Africa. Mnangagwa was fired from his post by President Mugabe last week, after being officially suspected of plotting to take over power.
Many suspect that the military activity might be a reaction to this dismissal of the Vice President. General Constantino Chiwenga, the alleged leader of the ZNA takeover, is known as a personal friend of Mnangagwa and an ally of his within the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). The Mnangagwa faction within the ruling party is thought to be at odds with the faction led by First Lady Grace Mugabe, and the two are reportedly both vying for a future bid to the presidency.
Robert Mugabe has been in power in Zimbabwe ever since he successfully led his ZANU-PF movement to bring down white-minority rule in what used to be called Rhodesia in 1980. While originally achieving a negotiated solution with its former coloniser the United Kingdom, Mugabe’s decisions to nationalize the diamond industry and seize lands from wealthy landowners for land redistribution, have caused significant tension with the Western world since the late 1990s. Since 2002, Zimbabwe has been under severe economic and financial sanctions by many Western nations, leading to a significant loss of trade revenue and a near total collapse of the Zimbabwean dollar currency, and inflicting significant hardship on the nation.