Published On: Thu, Nov 16th, 2017

Zimbabwe coup LIVE: Robert Mugabe under house arrest – army takes over Harare

  • Robert Mugabe has been removed from power and his former vice president installed as an interim president
  • Zimbabwe’s military officials continue to deny reports of a coup
  • Harare is swarming with army soldiers, blocking roads and preventing access to government buildings
  • Ruling party ZANU PF says the so-called crisis is not a coup but a “bloodless transition”
  • Mugabe is safe but reportedly being held at home with his family, including wife Grace
  • A number of arrests have been made, including Zanu-PF youth wing leader and Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo
  • There is calm on the streets of Harare, despite the presence of troops
  • The army challenged Mr Mugabe after he sacked the vice-president
  • Zimbabwe’s army takes over the national broadcaster, ZBC
  • Brits have been urged to remain indoors under Foreign Office advice as Theresa May said the situation remained fluid

The move comes after the Zimbabwe army seized power overnight with gunshots and explosions heard in the capital.

President Robert Mugabe, 93, is allegedly now preparing to step down, a few hours after the Zimbabwean military took over power, a leading South African news website has reported.

Jane Morley, Zimbabwe Analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit said: “The situation in Zimbabwe remains highly fluid following the military takeover on November 14th. 

“There are suggestions that the incumbent, Robert Mugabe, will resign, after which an interim government will take over, and elections held. 

“However, it is far from clear that any such polls would be free and fair. A managed election process would in all likelihood lead to the victory of former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, the army’s favoured candidate. “

Zimbabwe latest sees Robert Mugabe removed from power but party says it's not a coupGETTY – REUTERS

Zimbabwe latest sees Robert Mugabe removed from power but party says it’s not a coup

News24 also claims that he has made negotiations for his wife Grace to leave the country. A source claims Mugabe negotiated with the military for his wife to leave the country and obtain “safe haven” in return for him giving up power.

Opposition MP Eddie Cross believes the First Lady has already fled to Namibia after being allowed to leave the country last night by the army.

He added that her choice of exile had been limited after she allegedly assaulted a model in the South African city of Johannesburg in August.

Newspaper publisher Trevor Ncube however has claimed that Grace Mugabe has not fled to Namibia, but is instead still with her husband in Harare. 

He tweeted: “My sources in Zimbabwe confirm Grace Mugabe is still at the ‘Blue Roof’ home in Borrowadale, Harare with President Mugabe.”

Former Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa will now take control according to the ruling ZANU PF Party.

A Twitter account associated with the party issued a series of tweets this morning, saying there was not a military coup – just a “bloodless transition”. But it is not clear whether the Twitter profile is an official account.


The statements from the unverified account read: “Last night the first family was detained and are safe, both for the constitution and the sanity of the nation this was necessary. Neither Zimbabwe nor ZANU are owned by Mugabe and his wife.

“Today begins a fresh new era and comrade Mnangagwa will help us achieve a better Zimbabwe.

“There was no coup, only a bloodless transition which saw corrupt and crooked persons being arrested and an elderly man who had been taken advantage of by his wife being detained.

“The few bangs that were heard were from crooks who were resisting arrest, but they are now detained.

“ZANU PF has a way of solving our own problems, the situation is stable and Zimbabwe is open for business. There was no coup, but a bloodless peaceful transition- the centre is strong and there is peace with honest leadership.”

Military patrol the streets in HarareREUTERS

Military vehicles and soldiers patrol the streets in Harare

The head of the African Union (AU) has claimed the military takeover “seems like a coup” despite claims to the contrary from the military.

Alpha Conde, who also serves as the President of New Guinea, claimed the incident is “clearly soldiers trying to take power by force”.

In 2015 the AU clamped down hard on Burkina Faso, suspending the nation and issuing sanctions after a popular uprising against then-ruler Blaise Compaore.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, was sacked from his post as vice-president of Zimbabwe for what the government called “traits of disloyalty”.

His removal was seen as making it more likely that President Mugabe’s wife, Grace, would follow in her husband’s footsteps as leader of Zimbabwe.

She had earlier called on her husband to remove his vice-president.

Meanwhile Senior members of Robert Mugabe’s government have reportedly been taken to a military barracks.

Zimbabwean media mogul Trevor Ncube, whose company owns four of the nation’s newspapers, claimed they had been taken from the leader’s residence to a military base in the country.

He tweeted: “I can now confirm that Cabinet Ministers Jonathan Moyo and Saviour Kasukuwere have been picked up from President Mugabe’s ‘Blue Roof’ residence to KGV1 Military Barracks.

The UK’s ambassador to the UN Matthew Rycroft has confirmed there are no current plans to discuss the apparent coup.

He said: ”It’s unfolding rapidly, and I don’t want to say anything prematurely, but what we call on is for everyone to respect the need for safety and security and for no descent into violence.

“We appeal for calm and for the situation to remain stable.”

Zimbabwe coupREUTERS

Armed forces have promised that they will protect the civil service

Today begins a fresh new era and comrade Mnangagwa will help us achieve a better Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU PF party

It is not yet clear whether Mugabe will step down or if Mnangagwa is now the country’s leader following the military action last night.

Mnangagwa – also know as the crocodile – has returned to Harare to take control of the country’s government, according to the Independent Online (IOL) in South Africa.

But Zanu PF’s UK representative Nick Mangwana says President Robert Mugabe is still in charge – but the ruling party, which has been divided over who should succeed the 93-year-old leader, was being “realigned” as a result of the army’s action.

He also went on to say Mrs Mugabe was “insignificant” to Zanu PF, adding that she was a “junior member of the party” and only had power by virtue of being President Robert Mugabe’s wife.

And although he admitted ti was not normal for the army to takeover in a democracy, there was nothing normal about the power agreement in the south African country.

He said: “We have 93-year-old president, that is not usual, we do not have our own currency.”

Gunfire and explosions broke out in Harare, Zimbabwe following a warning by a military chief that the armed forces are ready to ”step in” to the political row, witnesses have reported.

Pictures taken this morning show large armoured vehicles and soldiers appearing to block traffic in the capital.

Witnesses said APCs moved from Inkomo barracks north of Harare toward the headquarters of Mugabe’s presidential guard.

Infrastructure in the capital, including phones and power lines, remained working as normal.

READ MORE: Who is Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace?

Social media users say there is an “uneasy calm” on the streets of the capital today following last night’s unrest.

One Twitter user said: “Family friend had to drop someone at the airport in Harare. Said he was searched by the army on the way, but “it was all very pleasant”.”

Another tweeted: “In Harare i havent witnessed any violence this morning. There’s an uneasy calm. Not many cars out here; most people have stayed indoors. Soldiers are conducting stop-and-searches on major roads.”

A third added: “Soldiers closed off N.Mandela St & part of S. Machel. Tanks at Reserve Bank and High Court. But I walked past them. Not bothering anyone. No gunshots. No abuse of civilians. We’re all busy at work.”

The military have blocked the main road leading to parliament, Nelson Mandela Avenue.

And soldiers are also stopping traffic on Samora Michel Avenue, which is near President Robert Mugabe’s office.

While it remains calm on the streets, a source told the Guardian that people in Zimbabwe are “excited because they are ready for change”.

The official added: “I don’t think will get violent because they are doing this for the people – if they start shedding blood can’t do that any more. That is why they told people to stay away from centre of town unless they have business, so trouble-makers cannot stir things up”

Tanks in ZimbabweAFP

Social media users say there is an “uneasy calm” on the streets of the capital

After storming a state television station soldiers made a statement claiming they have intervened to target criminals around Mugabe.

Zimbabwe’s military chief said the army wanted to deal with people who “were committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country”.

He added: ”As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normal.”

Since the takeover, state broadcasters have been playing patriotic struggle songs from the independence period of the 1980s throughout the day.

They have broadcast no other news other than to repeat Major-General Sibusiso Moyo’s statement.

From just after midday local time (10:00 GMT) ZBC returned to its regular schedule, which included a drama programme, cartoons and the lunchtime news.

By half eight on Wednesday morning, Zimbabwe’s state newspaper The Herald had still not updated its website to reflect the developments overnight.

But an hour later, the website’s lead story reiterated the military’s claims there is not a coup in Zimbabwe.


Military and police in ZimbabweAFP

The national police force has recalled all officers on leave

A number of local residents have reported hearing at least 10 rounds of shots and three explosions in the capital.

The national police force has recalled all officers on leave, and all officers have been ordered to return to their posts immediately.

However one photo posted online seems to show a group of around 25 people – believed to be police officers – sat in a line in the compound of an official building.

Fred Matsheza, a lawyer from Zimbabwe who shared the image on Twitter, said: “Police made to sit down in a line by Army #Parliament #Zimbabwe.”

Speaking to, Mr Matsheza said: “The situation is calm at the moment. People are just waiting to see what will happen next.

“As a lawyer, some cases which were to be heart at Mag Court today have been postponed coz Magistrates were cautious of the situation.”

But Zimbabwe police commissioner Augustine Chihuri has also been detained and arrested by army officials today.

Tapfuma Mavhuranzira told “Army has had their leave cancelled, not police. They are sitting in a line because their leader Chihuri is on of those targeted by army.”

Harare resident Denissa Moyannahas said she saw police being beaten by soldiers she travelled into the city centre, known as the central business district (CBD), from her home in the upmarket suburb of Borrowdale this morning.

The military broadcast also instructed all members of the defence forces to regroup as “all leave is cancelled”, they added: “We call upon all the war veterans to play a positive role in ensuring peace, stability and unity in the country.

“To members of the Zimbabwe defence forces, all leave is cancelled and you are all to return to your barracks with immediate effect.

“To the other security forces we urge you to cooperate for the good of our country.

“Let it be clear we intend to address the human security threats in our country. Therefore any provocation will be met with an appropriate response.”

The Zimbabwe finance minister Ignatius Chombo is among those detained by the army, according to Government sources.

There was allegedly a brief gun fight outside Mr Chombo’s house, with images showing the front gates to his home having been smashed in and bullet holes in kitchen appliances.

A number of other Zimbabwean cabinet ministers have been arrested‚ sources say, including higher education minister Jonathan Moyo and local government minister Saviour Kasukuwere.

Zanu PF youth secretary Cde Kudzanai Chipanga, a loyal supporter of Mugabe, has also been detained.

Zimbabwe citizens queue at bankREUTERS

Zimbabwe citizens have been seen queuing at banks

Zimbabwe's militaryAFP

Zimbabwe’s military used state television to vow to target “criminals” close to Mugabe

The party’s youth league faction tweeted: “His safety has been guaranteed & has implored us to comply with the National Democratic Project which is underway.

“We would also want to commend the military for conducting the NDP with minimal force.”

Armed forces have promised that they will protect the civil service against planned purges.

However, soldiers and armoured vehicles have blocked roads to the main government offices, parliament and the courts in central Harare, witnesses have reported.

Worried locals have started queuing for cash outside banks, which could have a knock-on economic effect if anxious investors pull out. 

This is not an unusual sight in Zimbabwe, however.

The country replaced its own currency with US dollars in 2009 after a financial crash caused by hyperinflation.

And in the last year, a shortage of hard cash has left people queuing for hours in order to withdraw their money.

The crisis has also seen the Bitcoin price double to £10,000 on Zimbabwe’s Golix exchange on Wednesday after the political turmoil ensued.

The price of the cryptocurrency in the Southern African nation jumped as high as $13,499, almost double the rate at which it trades in international markets.

And demand for the online currency in Zimbabwe also surged amid a shortage of hard currency,

President Robert Mugabe’s famous ‘blue house’ or ‘blue roof’ has also been sealed off by heavily armed military personnel.

Despite the comments made by the military and Zanu PF, the BBC’s Shimgai Nyoka said the situation in Zimbabwe had “all the elements of a coup”.

“There was gunfire and explosions in several suburbs in areas overnight including where senior government officials reside and where President Mugabe’s private residence is.

“The army says he’s safe and his security and that of his family is guaranteed.

“They deny it’s a coup as they haven’t usurped his power. They say they have targeted the people around him and he’ll be restored to the presidency as soon as their mission is accomplished.”

Alex Magaisa, a former adviser to Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, also believes the military’s claim that they haven’t carried out a coup is untrue.

He said: ”They have decided not to call it a coup because they know that a coup does not sell, it will be condemned.

“But as far as authority is concerned, it seems very clear that President Mugabe is now just a president in name and authority is now residing in the military.”

Military take over in ZimbabweREUTERS

Military bosses in Zimbabwe have denied there is a coup

Zimbabwe military coupREUTERS

Former Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa will now take power

The MDC, the main political challenger to Mugabe’s Zanu PF party for the last two decades, also said it hoped the military intervention would lead to the “establishment of a stable, democratic and progressive nation-state”.

Mmusi Maimane, Leader of the Democratic Alliance, called for fresh elections to be held in Zimbabwe as soon as practically possible, and for Robert Mugabe to immediately resign as President of Zimbabwe.  

In a statement, he said: “This will allow the people of Zimbabwe to choose a new direction for their country, and to free themselves from the tyrannical reign of Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF.  

“True democracy is adhering to the will of the people, not the internal politics and arrangements of liberation movements.”

The Secretary-General of Zimbabwe’s War Veterans Association has said Robert Mugabe should be removed as the country’s leader.

Victor Matemadanda added at a news conference that a military takeover earlier today was for the good of Zimbabwe.

While one of Zimbabwe’s best-known activists, pastor Evan Marawire, told followers on social media that the developments were “the culmination of the work that citizens have been doing”.

He called on Zimbabwean citizens to “remain calm and hopeful, alert but prayerful, to support and encourage each other and to stay away from violence and lawlessness, from rumours and lies” as the nation has “entered unprecedented waters”.

Marawire has been jailed and prosecuted since launching the #thisflag movement last year, which led to major protests.

Tendai Biti, an opposition leader, called for a “roadmap back to legitimacy”.

He said: “What is key is that a traditional authority is set up which is inclusive with the opposition and the ruling party… We need a dialogue too with [regional organisations], the African Union and the United Nations. We can’t solve this problem on our own.”

Chombo houseTWITTER @DolapoAina

Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo’s house was ransacked

The US embassy in Harare announced it would remain closed today as the unrest continues, tweeting: “Due to ongoing uncertainty in Zimbabwe, the U.S. Embassy in Harare will be minimally staffed and closed to the public on November 15.  Embassy personnel will continue to monitor the situation closely.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has updated its travel advice to British nationals this morning, warning Brits to stay off the streets.

It read: “You should avoid political activity or activities which could be considered political, including political discussions in public places and criticism of the President. 

“You should avoid all demonstrations and rallies. The authorities have sometimes used force to suppress demonstrations.”

UK Prime Minister Theresa also urged Brits in Zimbabwe to remain indoors as the situation “remains fluid”. 

Speaking at in the House of Commons earlier, Mrs May said: “We are monitoring those developments very carefully, the situation is still fluid and we urge restraint on all sides.”

And British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said it was still unclear whether the seizure of power by the military in Harare marked the downfall of President Robert Mugabe.

“We cannot tell how developments in Zimbabwe will play out in the days ahead and we do not know whether this marks the downfall of Mugabe or not,” Johnson told the British parliament.

He added Britain always wanted Zimbabwe’s citizens to be masters of their fate, adding the UK would do all it could to ensure that elections next year were free and fair.

Emily Thornberry, Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, has urged the UK government to continue to provide “every assistance necessary” to all British citizens in Zimbabwe.

Robert MugabeEPA

Robert Mugabe could be ousted as president

Robert Mugabe and his wife GraceAFP

Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace are under house arrest

She added: “Amid the uncertainty of these ongoing events, three things are clear: First, a descent into violence, recrimination and reprisals from any direction must be avoided at all costs.

“Second, the continuation of authoritarian rule does not represent a sustainable way forward for Zimbabwe, no matter which faction ends up in control.

“And third, it must ultimately be for the Zimbabwean people to determine their own future government through free, peaceful and democratic elections.”

James Duddridge, a British former Africa minister, said Zimbabwe’s President Mugabe should be given a “soft landing” outside the country to allow a “less bloody” transition.

The Conservative MP, who was responsible for Zimbabwe at the Foreign Office between 2014 and 2016, stressed any interim government must only be in place for a relatively brief period.

And he insisted it would be inappropriate for the UK to support any illegal coup, but said he would try to raise the military action at Prime minister’s Questions today.

He added: “The British government should support the Zimbabwean people to bring the whole thing to a conclusion and chart a way forward.”

Simon Thomas, the acting British ambassador in Harare, told Britons to stay at home and in a hotel and “wait until things settle down a little bit”. 

He said: “You will have seen pictures overnight of the military being deployed around the city and I can confirm that military remains deployed at strategic locations around Harare this morning.”

Army and soldiers in HarareGETTY

Army and soldiers are seen blocking off roads and buildings in Harare

Military tanks at Harare presidential officeGETTY

Military tanks sealed off a main road to the presidential office

South African President Jacob Zuma says he is watching the events unfolding in neighbouring Zimbabwe with “great concern”.

An official statement released by Mr Zuma’s office called on the armed forces “to resolve the political impasse amicably”.

And it was revealed President Jacob Zuma, in his capacity as chair of SADC (the Southern African Development Community), is to meet with president Robert Mugabe and the Zimbabwean Defence Force.

President Zuma spoke to President Robert Mugabe earlier today, who indicated that he was confined to his home but said that he was fine.

The European Union, which first imposed sanctions against Zimbabwe in 2002 over its rights record, has called for a peaceful resolution following today’s events, saying “recent political developments in Zimbabwe, and their spillover, including in relation to the country’s security forces, are a matter of concern”.

A statement read: “We are following the situation closely and we want to underline that the fundamental rights of all citizens need to be respected and the constitutional order and democratic governance needs to be upheld.

“We call on all relevant players to move from confrontation to dialogue with the aim to a peaceful crisis resolution.”

The southern African nation had been on edge since Monday when Chiwenga, Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, said he was prepared to “step in” to end a purge of supporters of Emmerson Mnangagwa, the vice president sacked last week.

In the last year, a chronic absence of dollars has led to long queues outside banks and an economic and financial collapse that many fear will rival the meltdown of 2007-2008, when inflation topped out at 500 billion percent.

Imported goods are running out and economists say that, by some measures, inflation is now at 50 percent a month.

According to a trove of intelligence documents reviewed by Reuters this year, Mnangagwa has been planning to revitalise the economy by bringing back thousands of white farmers kicked off their land nearly two decades ago and patching up relations with the World Bank and IMF.

Zimbabwe was due to hold general elections next year, scheduled for some time in August 2018.

But with the economy is imploding, many Zimbabweans have lost faith in a political solution – seeing emigration figures soaring.

Doctors and nurses are also leaving in droves – many coming to the UK where the £21,000-a-year salary is a far cry from the £3,000 earned in Zimbabwe.

But for most people, South Africa is the destination of choice. Statistics from the South African embassy in Harare indicate that visa applications have doubled since 2014.

Additional reporting by Vincent Wood

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