Analysts have described the Zimbabwean military’s house arrest of President Robert Mugabe, his wife Grace, and other top state officials as a coup d’état, despite military leaders denying that it has usurped the presidency.
The military action against Mugabe came a day after armed forces commander Constantine Chiwenga announced that the military would stop “those bent on hijacking the revolution”.
“It is definitely a coup, in the sense that there’s been a military intervention in the highest office of the state and state functionaries, such as the public broadcaster have been taken over,” says Liesl Louw-Vaudron, an analyst for the Institute of Security Studies.
Willie Breytenbach, Emeritus Professor in Political Science at Stellenbosch University, says that, although the situation will only crystalise over the next few days, it has all the hallmarks of a military coup d’état.
Experts are also in agreement that Mugabe’s sacking of his long-standing ally, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and his attempts to force his wife into the position of vice president and, by implication, president, are what led to the dramatic military action.
“What we’re seeing is really the long-term result of the blocking of any kind of democratic transition in Zimbabwe. The army is now stepping in on behalf of the factional leader [Mnangagwa] in the name of the constitution and Zimbabwe’s democratic ideals,” says Professor Brian Roftopoulos, a leading researcher on Zimbabwe from the University of the Western Cape.
“This is, of course, all very ironic, seeing that the military has been using violence to keep Mugabe in power indirectly and Mnangagwa has played a key role in supporting him, despite him previously losing the elections.”
While the military has been careful not to cast their action against Mugabe as a coup, but rather as a “democratic transition”, Roftopoulos says this is because they know that a coup will not go down well with the Zimbabwean people, who are tired of violence.