Zimbabwe’s military leaders claim the steps taken in the last twenty four hours do not amount to a military coup or takeover of the government. In name it may be neither of these things, yet in action there is a striking resemblance at the very least. A military presence remains in the streets of Harare, and parliament is closed, though surprisingly some aspects of daily life appear to be continuing as usual. Businesses are open, and people are on the streets. There have been no signs of fighting or violent demonstrations. ZBC, the national broadcaster remains under military control. Mugabe is being held under house arrest. The term ‘bloodless transition’ has been used on Zanu-PF’s social media accounts and seems to be the politically acceptable term to describe what is happening in Zimbabwe right now.
The era of Mugabe is ending unceremoniously. His grip on Zimbabwe lasted four decades and for better or worse, Mugabe’s face became the face of Zimbabwe during that time. His fate was sealed when he sacked vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa. It became clear that Mugabe intended for his wife Grace to succeed him instead of Mnangagwa. This did not sit well with the military. When General Constantino Chiwenga, the commander of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces, announced the military would stop “those bent on hijacking the revolution,” his comments were branded “treasonous” by the ruling party. The stage was set from that point and hours later, armored vehicles appeared in and around Harare and the ‘transition’ commenced shortly thereafter.
What comes next is anyone’s guess, yet the lack of intervention by security forces loyal to Mugabe, or his wife, is significant. Reports from inside Harare indicate that Mugabe might be negotiating a graceful departure from power while the military continues arresting members of his circle. This would increase the chances of the ‘bloodless transition’ now underway remaining so. Politically speaking, there is no guarantee that life after Mugabe will be a seamless transition for Zimbabwe and its citizens.