The decades-long grip on power of Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe appeared to be over on Thursday, as a military takeover of the African nation went unchallenged and efforts apparently began to form a transitional government.
Mugabe’s exit is ‘a done deal’ but Zimbabwe is still in limbo
A senior opposition source told CNN that discussions were taking place with military leaders against the backdrop of tacit support from key African nations.
“There is a transition of power underway and it has tacit agreement from regional powers,” the senior member of Zimbabwe’s opposition party, Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change, told CNN.
“There are active talks underway to form a transitional government and that transitional government will need to include the opposition,” added the source, who declined to be named. “It looks as if it is a done deal.”
Zimbabwe was thrust into uncertainty early Wednesday when army spokesman Maj. Gen. S.B. Moyo announced in a live television broadcast that the army was conducting an operation to target “criminals” close to Mugabe. Mugabe and his family, the commander said, were safe.
According to South African President Jacob Zuma, Mugabe is being detained at his home and unable to leave. Members of the country’s military remain deployed outside the presidential palace, Zimbabwe’s parliament, the airport and the state broadcaster building.
Zuma did not denounce the military’s move, instead calling on Zimbabwe’s Defense Forces to show restraint, adding that he hoped they “will not move and do more damage.”
“I am hoping that the situation is going to be controlled so peace and stability comes back to Zimbabwe,” he said.
Two South African ministers arrived in Zimbabwe on Wednesday to meet with authorities, according to the South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation.
A spokesperson for Zimbabwe’s opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), called for all parties to “respect human life,” saying the apparent coup was an “accident waiting to happen.”
The MDC had been telling the world for years that “this is an unsustainable system,” said Obert Gutu. “We haven’t heard of any looting. We haven’t heard of any bloodshed … or anybody being killed.”
A separate meeting of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) was called by Zuma, Thursday. The meeting, to be held in Botswana, will include foreign ministers and delegates from neighboring Angola, Tanzania and Zambia.
It remains uncertain, however, as to who precisely is calling the shots. In his Wednesday broadcast, Maj. Gen. S.B. Moyo insisted that people weren’t witnessing a military takeover.
Redi Tlhabi, journalist and talk show host, told CNN there was a reluctance in Zimbabwe to call it a coup, for fear of intervention by the African Union and other regional bodies.
“If they say that they have staged a coup, it compels the neighboring, regional countries to intervene, Tihabi said.
“Remember, all of them embraced constitutional democracy and the coup actually belongs to a bygone era. So they’re reticent because they’re trying to avoid that kind of intervention,” added Tihabi.
Signs of shifting alliances emerged later Wednesday when the head of the Zanu-PF Youth League, a group that is a key ally of Grace Mugabe, apologized to the armed forces in a video broadcast on national broadcaster ZBC.
Earlier this week, Kudzanai Chipanga criticized the head of the armed forces in a public statement, vowing to fight and die for Mugabe.
“I have since reflected and I personally admitted that I erred together with my entire executive to denigrate your highest office,” Kudzanai Chipanga said Thursday. “I have not been persuaded to offer myself to the state media but I have personally reflected and realized my mistake.”