IN a week of high political and military drama, President Robert Mugabe — barricaded at his Borrowdale mansion and effectively under house arrest — has told his security ministers, army commanders and regional envoys that although he is agreed in principle to go he will not be unconstitutionally stampeded out of power and forced to resign immediately as demanded by his captors.
By Kudzai Kuwaza
Insiders said Mugabe, who is holed up at his house with his wife Grace and his family, and close allies Jonathan Moyo and Saviour Kasukuwere and their families, agreed during the delicate talks at State House in Harare yesterday that he could step down as Zanu PF leader at his party’s congress next month and as head of state and government when his current term of office expires by mid next year.
“Mugabe is agreed to go in principle. As a general plan, although the details are not yet established, he has agreed to step down as Zanu PF leader next month and president next year, but he does not want to be removed from office outside the constitution and law framework,” one source said.
“However, the military and its political allies want him to go now; they want him to resign and reinstate (fired Vice-President Emmerson) Mnangagwa and also allow him to become acting president, and then follow the party and government processes leading to an eventual takeover.
“So for now he is going nowhere; he is staying put even at the risk of military escalation and a complete takeover.
The dilemma for the military is to stage a fully-fledged coup and remove Mugabe, but then suffer the consequences of global condemnation, sanctions and isolation which might collapse the country – achieving the very opposite of what they say they want to do. For Mugabe the risk is removal through a coup, harm and humiliation.”
This creates an explosive stalemate between Mugabe and military commanders. Mugabe is brandishing the constitution as his weapon of defence, while the army is rolling tanks and armoured personnel carriers in the capital and around his house in a fierce battle of wills.
Angered by persistent attacks on them and a plot to arrest Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) commander General Constantino Chiwenga upon his arrival from China on Sunday, as well as the firing of Mnangagwa, the military went for broke against First Lady Grace Mugabe’s G40 Zanu PF faction locked in a fierce Zanu PF succession battle with bitter rivals loyal to the former vice-president.
Announcing the military intervention on state television on Wednesday morning, ZDF Chief-of-Staff (Quartermaster) Major-General Sibusiso Moyo said the army had not toppled Mugabe and his government but intervened to weed out “criminals” around him.
In the process of the operation, Moyo and Kasukuwere, who survived a hail of bullets on early Wednesday morning while huddled at the latter’s Glen Lorne house, were still by last night hiding in fear at Mugabe’s house, contrary to reports they had been smoked out and arrested. Moyo lives in Greystone Park.
Investigations showed that their houses’ gates, doors and windows were perforated with gunfire as soldiers stormed the properties to seize them during the military takeover.
“The first casualty of the operation was Mugabe’s head of security (Albert Ngulube) who was seized coming from the president’s house going to his home in Avondale West around 10:30pm on Tuesday night. He was grabbed right at Mugabe’s gate and taken to detention where he was brutally beaten. Ngulube was released on Wednesday and taken to hospital before going home. He suffered head injuries and severe bruises.
“And then there was Moyo and Kasukuwere. Troops arrived at Kasukuwere’s house and shot their way into the residence before shelling it from about 10 minutes or so minutes. They then left. No one was killed. The families then escaped to Muagbe’s house. Moyo had initially run away from his home to friend’s house. However, Moyo’s house was also stormed by soldiers.”
Troops also captured Finance minister Ignatius Chombo’s Mount Pleasant house and seized him for detention. Zanu PF Youth League Kudzai Chipanga was also taken and beaten up. He later appeared on state television apologising for his attacks on Chiwenga and others.
However, generally there has been an atmosphere of peace and tranquility in Harare and others parts of the country. The army has been professional and civil in dealing with ordinary people.
Since the military took over on Tuesday night and early Wednesday morning, Mugabe has been under siege at home although is getting increasingly emboldened by the deadlock and swift interventions by regional and continental, as well as global leaders.
Sadc leaders have now intervened, with the regional body chairperson South African President Jacob Zuma sending two high-level envoys, Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and State Security minister Bongani Bongo, to Harare a day after the military intervention – which some describe as a coup – to contain the crisis.
A local priests and government officials are also facilitating dialogue.
Zuma spoke to Mugabe by telephone on Wednesday who informed him he was fine, although captive.
While talks were happening at State House in Harare yesterday, the Sadc organ troika on politics, defence and security foreign affairs ministers from Angola, Tanzania and Zambia, as well as South African as the chair of the regional body were locked in an extraordinary summit in Botswana to discuss the situation.
Sadc is opposed to an unconstitutional change of government in Zimbabwe and has emphasised the need for dialogue to resolve the situation.
The Sadc organ troika reaffirmed Sadc’s commitment to African Union (AU) Constitutive Act and the regional body’s Democratic Principles, as they relate to the unconstitutional removal of democratically elected governments.
It said it noted with “great concern” the unfolding situation Zimbabwe and demanded that whatever happens the country must stick to the constitution.
“The Sadc organ troika called upon all stakeholders in Zimbabwe to settle the political challenges through peaceful means,” it said. “Having considered the unfolding situation in the Republic of Zimbabwe, the organ troika recommended the convening of an urgent extraordinary Sadc summit and committed to remain seized with the situation in Zimbabwe.”
Negotiations are set to continue unless there is a military escalation.