A timeline of the coup in Zimbabwe

Conway Waddington

On 14 November, ADR published a cautionary response to speculation on social media, and in local and international media, about a possible coup occurring in Zimbabwe. The speculation was, at that stage, based on video circulating social media, of armoured vehicles approaching Harare. Aside from a small group of armoured vehicles being consistently misidentified as ‘tanks’ by witnesses, which was then casually repeated by media, there appeared to be little in the way of verification as increasingly bombastic speculation emerged. At that stage, ADR cautioned against drawing conclusions about a coup without waiting for further, or clearer information. To be honest, at that stage, it appeared just as likely that there was in fact no coup underway – despite political tensions in Zimbabwe, notably between the dominant ZANU-PF ‘G40’ faction and the Chief of the Defence Force, making for a narratively compelling argument to support the coup claims.

Whatever the initial objectives, for most of the 14th of November the ZDF forces who had appeared in or around Harare appeared to be calm, taking no specific action, and nobody in the civilian government, ruling party, or military appeared willing to comment.

In the early morning of the 15th, the situation changed. Dramatically.

At around 1 AM, reports appeared of some sporadic gunfire or explosions or both, at unknown locations in the Harare. At 4 AM, Zimbabwe Defence Force personnel seized the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation station, to announce on television that, while the Mugabe family was “safe”, that the military intended to arrest “criminals” surrounding the president. Subsequently, rumors surfaced of the detention of several G40 faction leaders, including several ministers.  By mid-morning, it was clear that at least some part of the military had taken control of, if not the government, then at least Harare. What follows is a summary of key events in the day, a recap of events on 14 November, and points of interest to watch for as this ongoing event unfolds.


ZDF personnel in Harare on 15 November


Events on 7 December

Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa released his budget, emphasising austerity measures to reduce state spending – including enforced retirements, a recruitment freeze, reductions on retirement benefits, and travel restrictions. [source]

Events on 6 December

Events on 3 December

Events on 1 December

Events on 28 November

Events on 27 November

Events on 25 November

Events on 24 November

Events on 23 November

Events on 22 November

Events on 21 November

Events on 20 November

Events on 19 November

Events on 18 November

Events on 17 November

Events on 16 November

President Mugabe meets with ZDF Chief General Chiwega and South African envoys in Harare on 16 November (source)

Events on 15 November

ZDF spokesman, Major General Sibusiso Moyo announces that the military has taken control at 4AM on 15 November

The ZDF statement issued of 15 November

ZDF personnel in Harare on 15 November, conducting vehicle searches

ZDF personnel disarm Zimbabwe police officers at the Parliament building in Harare during the morning of 15 November

Events on 14 November


Key trends or events to watch for in the coming weeks:

The Zimbabwe Independent reported that a security services source had said that tensions between the police and army had reached a boiling point when members of the Support Unit paramilitary police wing had attempted to arrest Chiwenga upon arrival from China on 12 November (?). They were reportedly prevented from doing so by members of the ZDF Presidential Guard unit who had been deployed at the airport to secure his return. [source]




Status reports on Cabinet Ministers/key ZANU-PF (G40) faction leaders (as of 29 November):

(some media/NGO attention being directed to this issue: https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/11/22/zimbabwe-protect-detainees-rights)


Subsequent information about the coup on 14/15 November

A 24 November account of events during the coup – including specific claims about large numbers of vehicles and actual tanks (not mis-identified APCs). These claims remain unverified but are not supported by any imagery seen so far from those two days. 


Part of a highly detailed account of the coup by Reuters, which includes references to an unnamed minister. Notably Patrick Chinamasa was the minister ostensibly responsible for social media. Since he was not arrested during the coup, and was later re-appointed as interim Minister of Finance, is is plausible that he is the minister mentioned here. 


Also from the Reuters account of the coup, this passage echoes other claims that ZDP Commander, Constantino Chiwenga had escaped arrest upon his return from China on 13 November. Augustine Chihuri was head of the ZRP for 20 years, and a steadfast Mugabe loyalist. Chihuri escaped arrest on 15 November, and appeared on 24 November to pledge loyalty to President Mnangagwa, where he was heavily booed by the crowd. Matibiri was reshuffled to an HR role on 28 November.