All reports out of Harare, Zimbabwe, indicate that President Robert Mugabe, 93, is under house arrest after a move by the military to readjust the nation’s leadership issues, according to the BBC. South African President Jacob Zuma told the BBC he had spoken to Mugabe by phone.
Although the generals denied staging a coup, the aging president, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, cannot leave his compound, according to Agence France-Presse.
“It is almost too messy at this point,” said New Jersey-based Dr. Leonard Jeffries, one of the most influential African leaders in the diaspora, adding, “It’s too early for us to make any judgements.” However, Jeffries understands that actions such as Mugabe giving the African Union $1 million put a bullseye on his back.
Observers say that tensions between the 93-year-old head of state and the military erupted in recent weeks because of speculation that Mugabe wants to place his 52-year-old wife in a position to succeed him as president. News sources say that Zuma said he was sending his ministers of state and defense to meet with the world’s longest-serving head of state.
South Africa has urged Mugabe not to make any “unconstitutional changes” of government. Sources close to the situation on the ground are claiming that a delegation from the SADC bloc of southern African nations can help resolve the impasse.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres appealed for non-violence and restraint after reports of gunfire and explosions were heard near Mugabe’s compound, according to the U.N.
The African Union expressed concern regarding the situation in Zimbabwe, demanding “constitutional order be restored immediately.” AU leader Alpha Conde, also president of Guinea, said in a statement that the organization condemned the actions of the military chiefs, adding that it was clearly soldiers trying to take power by force.
Some observers say the political crisis started when Mugabe sacked his vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, last week. The 75-year-old fled to South Africa after being accused of plotting against the government. There are, however, reports that some in the military may have seen the vice president’s ouster as a move to place Mugabe’s wife closer to gaining succession, which many say is not something that is popular in the southern African nation.
Sky News is now reporting that Mugabe may give a televised address to the nation, possibly by Friday. Rumors abound that Mugabe might be prepared to either hand over or endorse the military at this stage, possibly by the end of the week. At the same time there is also talk of the establishment of a transition government that would involve members of ZANU-PF, possibly Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition, and the postponement or abolition of the December elections.
However, the latest from AFP is that the ruling party Nov. 14 accused the army chief of “treasonable conduct.” The ZANU-PF party in a tweet said that General Constantino Chwenga’s criticism was clearly calculated to disturb national peace, and that the actions by the military were meant to incite insurrection, according to News 24.
In July, Mugabe said he was donating $1 million to the AU, hoping to set an example for African nations to finance AU programs and wean it off funding from outside donors. According to Reuters, for years approximately 60 percent of AU spending has been financed by donors, including the European Union, World Bank and governments of wealthy non-African nations.
“There needs to be a call for a council of African leaders, but the military must allow the political leaders to go forward in getting Zimbabwe back on pace,” Jeffries said.