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Mugabe reportedly refuses to accept the takeover; South Africa calls it a coup d'état

Zimbabwe: Timing of general's visit to China raises questions

Life goes on as normal in Zimbabwe, with schools re-opening and people going about their daily business.

The latest reports from Zimbabwe are that Robert Mugabe refuses to accept the military takeover. For the moment, he is still officially the head of state and there is no martial law. The Southern African Development Community (SADC) is meeting in Botswana today to discuss the Zimbabwean situation.

An interim government is widely expected, possibly with former Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa at the helm. While the departure of Mugabe has been the fervent wish of thousands for many years, many feel ambiguous about the means by which it has been achieved. The armed forces in Zimbabwe and the ruling party, Zanu-PF, have been at pains to paint it as a “national democratic project”, rather than as a coup which would necessitate SADC intervention. The international response to the developments in Zimbabwe has been muted. However, South Africa’s Jacob Zuma has had no qualms in calling it a coup.

Interestingly, the head of the army, General Constantine Chiwenga, last week visited his counterpart in Beijing as part of a scheduled visit and upon his return, unusually called for a press conference at which he said: “We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that when it comes to the matter of protecting our revolution‚ the military will not hesitate to step in.” The timing of his visit has sparked speculation that China had given its nod to a military takeover.

Genl Constantine Chiwenga with China's Minister of Defence, Chang Wanquan (Photo: Chinese Ministry of Defence)

Furthermore, as some analysts emphasise, former Vice-President Mnangagwa (nicknamed ‘The Crocodile’) has enabled Mugabe’s ruthless persecution of political opponents and the destruction of civil society and the economy for decades. It would be unrealistic to expect a Zimbabwe significantly different from the current state under his leadership.

Former Zimbabwean Finance Minister Tendai Biti and prominent member of the Zimbabwean opposition told the South African state broadcaster that there's no need for South African business and investors to panic about the unfolding political change in Zimbabwe. He reassured investors that the army, currently in control of the country, understood the needs of business.