The peo­ple have spo­ken

Joy in streets as both sides of aisle pre­pare to im­peach Mu­gabe

Sunday Times - - FRONT PAGE - By MZILIKAZI wa AFRIKA, NJAB­ULO NCUBE, TAWANDA KAROMBO and RAY NDLOVU in Harare

Tens of thou­sands of Zim­bab­weans marched through the streets of Harare yes­ter­day in an un­prece­dented mass protest, de­mand­ing that Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe step down af­ter a week of tur­moil and a “soft coup” led by army lead­ers.

With Mu­gabe backed into a cor­ner, the pro­test­ers were march­ing on his official res­i­dence, to which he has been con­fined un­der “house ar­rest” since army lead­ers moved against him ear­lier in the week.

With army he­li­copters fly­ing over­head, the march, backed by Mu­gabe’s Zanu-PF, re­sem­bled a car­ni­val as peo­ple sang, ul­u­lated and blew car hoot­ers in an­tic­i­pa­tion of his in­evitable stepping down from power.

Al­though this week’s mil­i­tary “coup” may have come as a sur­prise to many who had given up on Mu­gabe re­lin­quish­ing power be­fore he dies, the Sun­day Times has learnt that the re­moval of Mu­gabe was plot­ted months ago, and kept a close se­cret by a small band of con­spir­a­tors.

Mu­gabe, 93, was ex­pected to be re­called by the Zanu-PF cen­tral com­mit­tee to­day or to­mor­row. If he re­fuses to exit grace­fully, he will face an im­peach­ment mo­tion in par­lia­ment next week.

By yes­ter­day, eight out of the 10 Zanu-PF prov­inces had passed a vote of no con­fi­dence in Mu­gabe and his wife, Grace.

The rul­ing party has a two-thirds ma­jor­ity and will be sup­ported by the op­po­si­tion Move­ment for Demo­cratic Change when par­lia­ment re­sumes sit­ting on Tues­day af­ter a two-week break.

MDC MP Ruth La­bode said: “Right now any­thing that looks like a means of fin­ish­ing Bob, I am in.

“As MDC MPs we hav­ing been cau­cus­ing with our com­rades from Zanu-PF on how [we] move leg­isla­tively. Right now the goal is one, let us push him out.”

Wil­lias Madz­imure, an­other op­po­si­tion law­maker, said: “By Sun­day or Mon­day the Zanu-PF cen­tral com­mit­tee will have con­vened to re­call Mu­gabe, and the first sec­re­tary of Zanu-PF [Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa] will be voted to re­place him.

“On Tues­day or some­where there, a mem­ber of par­lia­ment will move a mo­tion to im­peach the state pres­i­dent. The mo­tion will be fast-tracked. Re­mem­ber the speaker of par­lia­ment is theirs. Mean­while the pres­i­dent will re­main in cap­tiv­ity. The whole idea is to avoid the ‘coup’ tag,” said Madz­imure.

Zanu-PF spokesman Si­mon Khaya Moyo did not re­spond to calls.

There is con­sen­sus that the plan to oust Mu­gabe was hatched long be­fore he fired Mnan­gagwa ear­lier this month. The mil­i­tary’s in­cur­sion into Harare in tanks and other mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles was the cul­mi­na­tion of months of plan­ning.

Dis­grun­tled mid­dle-rank­ing sol­diers had planned to pre­vent Mu­gabe from re­turn­ing to Zimbabwe af­ter med­i­cal treat­ment in Sin­ga­pore in March, but they were stopped by Mnan­gagwa, of­fi­cials and other sources said this week.

Mu­gabe had left Harare for Sin­ga­pore for med­i­cal treat­ment on March 1 af­ter his 93rd birth­day cel­e­bra­tions in Ma­tobo near Bulawayo. He re­turned on March 6 and sources said it was on this day that Mnan­gagwa in­ter­vened to stop some sol­diers pre­vent­ing him from land­ing in Harare.

This was con­firmed by Zanu-PF MP Ter­ence Mukupe, who said Mnan­gagwa had pre­vented the ear­lier coup at­tempt and called for pa­tience as he was con­vinced that Mu­gabe’s con­tin­ued stay in power would be ad­dressed through con­sti­tu­tional means.

“Ev­ery­one knew that the eco­nomic sit­u­a­tion in the coun­try was a re­sult of the lead­er­ship and it had to be changed and there was so much dis­gruntle­ment and we knew only the mil­i­tary would be able to in­ter­vene.

“We could have had a coup as far back as March but Mnan­gagwa pre­vented sol­diers from that,” Mukupe told the Sun­day Times in­side the Harare pro­vin­cial head of­fice of Zanu-PF on Fri­day.

Mnan­gagwa was fired on Novem­ber 6 for dis­play­ing “traits of dis­loy­alty, dis­re­spect, de­ceit­ful­ness and un­re­li­a­bil­ity” — in ef­fect paving the way for Grace Mu­gabe to suc­ceed her hus­band.

His ef­forts to flee Zimbabwe were thwarted when he and his se­cu­rity de­tail were de­nied en­try to Harare International Air­port. They tried to hire a pri­vate jet but au­thor­i­ties de­nied the jet per­mis­sion to use Zim­bab­wean airspace.

A bor­der se­cu­rity mem­o­ran­dum, seen by the Sun­day Times, shows Mnan­gagwa also tried to drive to neigh­bour­ing Mozam­bique.

On Novem­ber 6, a sil­ver Mercedes-Benz driven by a 51-year-old man, Hosea Manzunzu, ar­rived at the Forbes bor­der post but turned around sud­denly af­ter re­ceiv­ing an ur­gent call. The fol­low­ing day — af­ter of­fi­cials had been told to be on high alert and mon­i­tor the move­ment of high-pro­file politi­cians — the same car and driver again tried to cross the bor­der.

This time he had pas­sen­gers, which of­fi­cials ver­i­fied were Mnan­gagwa and four body­guards. As of­fi­cials waited to hear from their bosses what they should do, Mnan­gagwa got out the car and a scuf­fle en­sued be­tween the body­guards and bor­der se­cu­rity. Mnan­gagwa then jumped into an­other car and sped off.

It is un­clear how Mnan­gagwa fi­nally man­aged to get out of the coun­try, but he later re­port­edly trav­elled with Gen­eral Con­stan­tine Chi­wenga, to China, where the plan

to oust Mu­gabe was dis­cussed. China — a key ally to Zimbabwe — gave its bless­ing pro­vided the plan did not look like a coup.

When Chi­wenga flew back home last week­end, po­lice were wait­ing to ar­rest him.

Dra­matic de­tails of Tues­day’s mil­i­tary move on the cap­i­tal re­veal that Mu­gabe’s trusted lieu­tenant, Al­bert Ngu­lube, was the first to come across the sol­diers. He was seized while leav­ing the pres­i­dent’s house at 10.30 on Tues­day night, taken to the Pres­i­den­tial Guard head­quar­ters, stripped naked and “bru­tally as­saulted”.

Dur­ing a raid on fi­nance min­is­ter Ig­natius Chombo’s house that night, an Is­raeli se­cu­rity guard was shot dead in a gun bat­tle.

“While raid­ing the house, the sol­diers al­legedly found $10-mil­lion [about R140-mil­lion] stashed in one of the rooms,” a source told the Sun­day Times.

Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma said yes­ter­day he was “cau­tiously op­ti­mistic” that Zimbabwe’s po­lit­i­cal cri­sis would be re­solved am­i­ca­bly.

Zuma said he had spo­ken to Mu­gabe two days ago in his ca­pac­ity as chair­man of the South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity.

Two spe­cial en­voys de­ployed by Zuma met with Mu­gabe, some min­is­ters and lead­ers in the de­fence force, he told a gath­er­ing of business peo­ple and politi­cians in Dur­ban.

How­ever, ac­cord­ing to gov­ern­ment sources, Zuma’s en­voys faced a hos­tile re­cep­tion in Harare.

De­fence Min­is­ter No­siviwe MapisaNqakula and her coun­ter­part, State Se­cu­rity Min­is­ter Bon­gani Bongo, are said to have been kept wait­ing at the air­port in Zimbabwe on their ar­rival on Wed­nes­day.

“They were kept at the air­port un­til the evening, checked into a ho­tel and the fol­low­ing day they met at State House.

“Af­ter the talks they were get­ting ready to fly to Botswana to brief Zuma, [then] they re­ceived a call that they have to go see Chi­wenga again,” said one gov­ern­ment source.

Clear­ance for Mapisa-Nqakula and Bongo’s air­craft was de­layed on Fri­day.

Zuma will visit An­gola to­mor­row to con­sult Pres­i­dent Joao Lourenco, who chairs the SADC or­gan on pol­i­tics, de­fence and se­cu­rity co-op­er­a­tion. — Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Than­dux­olo Jika and Suthen­tira Goven­der

Pic­ture: AFP

Peo­ple cheer a pass­ing Zimbabwe De­fence Force mil­i­tary ve­hi­cle dur­ing a demon­stra­tion de­mand­ing the res­ig­na­tion of Zimbabwe’s pres­i­dent in Harare yes­ter­day.

Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe at a grad­u­a­tion cer­e­mony at the Uni­ver­sity of Harare on Fri­day.

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