African National Congress (ANC) secretary general Gwede Mantashe addressing the media on Wednesday. PHOTO: Getrude Makhafola/ANA

Johannesburg - South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) was left startled by the military coup in Zimbabwe that saw Robert Mugabe’s  37-year rule end, secretary general Gwede Mantashe said on Wednesday.

There were no discussions or alerts between Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF and the ANC regarding the removal of Mugabe.

“We didn’t know what was happening...anyone who thought someone whispered in our ears telling us that Mugabe was going to be removed must know there no such a thing took place,” Mantashe told reporters in Johannesburg.

“We were taken aback...but we had been watching developments within the Zanu-PF, from the time [former Mugabe deputy] Joyce Mujuru was kicked out. There were a series of events in Zanu-PF that worried us, but we had no control over that because it is a sister party.”

The removal of deputy president Emmerson Mnangagwa also took the governing party by surprise, he added. 

South African President Jacob Zuma earlier met with Mnangagwa in Pretoria. Mnangagwa had fled Zimbabwe following his sacking earlier this month and was expected back in Harare later on Wednesday.

The 75-year-old was nominated by the Zanu-PF to take over presidency and is expected to be sworn in on Friday.

Zimbabwean Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda announced Mugabe’s resignation on Tuesday when the two Houses of Parliament — Upper and Lower — were seated at the Harare International Conference Centre in the capital, moving a motion to impeach Mugabe.

He said he had received a letter from the 93-year-old, bringing the planned impeachment process to halt.

Mugabe has been president of Zimbabwe since the country attained independence from colonial rule in 1980. News of Mugabe’s much awaited resignation triggered celebrations in the capital, Harare as people took to the streets to mark the end of the country’s fallen liberation hero.