In an apparent military coup against the world’s oldest currently-serving leader, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, 93, has been placed on house arrest by the country’s military.
The president’s wife, Grace, and two other key political figures in her G40 political faction, Jonathan Moyo and Saviour Kasukuwere, are also on house arrest in the leader’s compound in Harare. Moyo and Kasukewere reportedly fled to the compound after their homes were raided by militants on Tuesday.
The military insists that this action was not part of a military takeover, but is merely part of a process to restore democracy in the African nation formerly known as Rhodesia.
A “Bloodless Correction”
The arrest of Mugabe, who is part of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) political party, and his peers come just a week after the president reportedly fired his vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, in a move that may have been intended to open the door for Mugabe’s wife, Grace, to succeed him in power. According to PBS, “Mugabe has been president since 1987, and before that the country’s prime minister.”
In an apparent response, the Zimbabwean military staged what Chris Mutsvangwa, chairman of the war veterans’ association, called a “bloodless correction of gross abuse of power” that will return Zimbabwe to “genuine democracy.”
He also reassured residents that this is not “a military takeover of government,” though armored vehicles have been spotted patrolling the streets and residents have been encouraged to stay indoors.
In a television address, the military confirmed that the president was “safe” and will be “confined to his home.” There are reports that the president’s wife — nicknamed “Gucci” Grace for her love of shopping — has fled from Harare and has sought refuge in Namibia, though these rumblings have not been confirmed.
South African President Jacob Zuma said in a statement that he spoke with Mugabe by telephone, who stated on Wednesday that he is “fine” and has been placed under house arrest in his $7 million mansion known as the Blue House, one of several properties belonging to the Mugabe family.
Mugabe and his family have since requested that the 93-year-old finish his term as president.
Slipping Through the Cracks
With a collapsed economy, Zimbabwe has only been able to hang on by a thread through Chinese investment; the world’s second largest economy has invested billions of dollars into the country’s mining sector in the last seven years.
With the potential ousting of Mugabe and the continued support of China, Zimbabwe may finally be able to return to a semblance of stability. But after nearly 40 years of despotism, is it too late?