Harare - Zimbabwe’s soft coup d’tat is over. The army announced on Monday that "Operation Restore Legacy” - the military take over which began on November 13, has ended.
National Army commander Phillip Sibanda released a statement early Monday which said the operation was launched by the security services “to remove criminals that had surrounded former president (Robert Mugabe) resulting in anxiety and despondency amongst our people.”
Without naming her, one of the people General Sibanda was referring to in his statement was former first lady Grace Mugabe who played a key role in a faction within Zanu-PF known as G-40 and which sought to ensure that Robert Mugabe stayed on in power for the rest of his life and was the Zanu-PF candidate in elections next year, at the age of 94.
She led several rallies in the last year where she insulted Mnangagwa and others close to him, while she also became infamous on the streets in Zimbabwe for her massive accumulation of property and her spending habits at a time of growing poverty.
Mugabe sacked new president Emmerson Mnangagwa on November 5, and he fled the country, by road, into Mozambique and then to South Africa, where he and several war veterans, in consultation with the army appear to have arranged to take over the country, which happened with hardly a shot fired.
“While some of the individuals have been accounted for, others skipped the country. …notwithstanding (that) the objectives of the operation have to a large extent been achieved,” General Sibanda said in his statement.
Two seniors from G40, former cabinet ministers Jonathan Moyo and Saviour Kasukuwere fled the country. A few other seniors within this faction or its sympathisers kept a low profile for several weeks, and the former vice president, Phelekezela Mphoko, in Japan on official business at the time, then went to Botswana, but has since returned home.
Former finance minister Ignatius Chombo was arrested at the start of the take-over, and was blindfolded and illegally detained by the military for about ten days and then released to the police where he was charged with corruption and released with tough bail conditions.
At least two senior civil servants have also been charged with corruption.
One man who was carrying a gun around Harare and who threatened to kill Mnangagwa was arrested and has been charged and has also been referred to doctors for evaluation.
General Sibanda said in his statement that the military takeover of Zimbabwe had “wider implications, on the political, economic and social activities of our people. …In this regard a new dispensation has been ushered in to take Zimbabwe into its rightful place within the SADC and the world at large.”
He said the highlight of the military’s operation had been the resignation of “former president Cde RG Mugabe from the seat of power…..the inauguration of the second executive president…..the appointment of a new cabinet …and the Extraordinary Congress of the Ruling Zanu PF party……normalcy has returned….and for this reason we announce the end of 'Operation Restore Legacy’ today, the 18th December 2017.”
He said the military wanted to “thank all Zimbabweans for their support, patience and understanding during the five weeks….we understand and regret the inconvenience and anxiety that the operation might have caused in certain circles of our nation…”
He also offered public thanks to the security services and war veterans who “mobilised” people for the massive turnout of support on the streets of Harare - the biggest demonstration in the history of Zimbabwe - on Saturday November 19.
But he also warned the faction within Zanu-PF, known as G-40, which 'clustered around the Head of State are now bad mouthing the country from foreign lands where their intentions to harm the peace and tranquility that exist in our country have been pronounced…..it is the duty of every Zimbabweans to ensure that these malcontents and saboteurs and others of like mind are not allowed to succeed."
He said the defence forces had now handed back normal law and order matters etc., to the police.
There is now a heavy presence of Zimbabwe’s military within the cabinet, but commissioner of police Augustine Chihuri has been fired today, although the wording of the announcement from cabinet secretary Mesheck Sibanda, says he, Chihuri, went on leave three days ago pending his retirement. Chihuri was seen as a supporter of the G40 faction.
Sibanda also announcedseveral military personalities now in the cabinet have been promoted “on retirement,” which means they will have better benefits if they are not appointed to the cabinet at the next elections.
Indications from Sibanda’s press statement are that General Constantino Chiwenga, whose contract as armed forces chief expired in July, is expected to shortly be appointed as one of Mnangagwa’s two vice presidents as he is "set to retire pending redeployment.”
Chiwenga played the major public role in last month’s coup d’etat. He was also ensured Mnangagwa was flown by the military to South Africa earlier this year when then as vice president he became suddenly ill at one of Mugabe’s rallies. Mnangagwa later said he was treated in South Africa for poisoning.
Lawyer Tendai Biti, who played a considerable role in the production of Zimbabwe’s 2013 constitution and was a founding member of the Movement for Democratic Change, and formerly its secretary-general, said it was “unconstitutional” for members of the security services to serve in the cabinet. “Check it out, it is in the constitution. This is the rise of the securocratic state.”
Jonathan Moyo claimed in what he said was his last tweet today that he had been saved during the coup by Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace as they let him into their mansion after he claimed his own house was attacked by 25 armed soldiers. He later left first family’s mansion and went by road to Mozambique and is now in Kenya.
Independent Foreign Service