A timeline of the coup in Zimbabwe
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
- Finance Minister Patrick Chinamasa signed three loan agreements with the Chinese ambassador, worth a total of $153 million. The loans are toward refurbishing the Robert Gabriel Mugabe airport (payable over 20 years), and for a new parliament building and expansion of a University of Zimbabwe computer centre. [source]
Events on 3 December
- President Mnangagwa replaced the education minister and labour minister in his newly appointed cabinet, citing constitutional compliance requirements – but widely regarded as a response to public outcry. [source]
- In Makonde district, Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association members called on President Mnangagwa to fire Police Commissioner General, Augustine Chihuri. [source]
Events on 1 December
- President Mnangagwa announced his first Cabinet – which included several senior military appointments. Major-General Sibusiso Moyo, who appeared on national television in the early morning of 15 November to announce the military ‘intervention’, was appointed Foreign Minister. Air Marshal Perrance Shiri, the former commander of the North Korean-trained ‘5 Brigade’, which is generally held responsible for the killing of thousands of people in Matabeleland in 1983, was appointed the Minister of Lands. [source]
Events on 28 November
- President Mnangagwa announced a three month amnesty, beginning 1 December, for individuals and companies to return any public funds illegal hidden abroad “Upon expiry of the three-month window, the government will proceed to effect arrest of all those who would not have complied with this directive, and will ensure that they are prosecuted in terms of the country’s laws,”. [source]
- President Mnangagwa announced plans for a “leaner” government – pledging to redeploy and reskill any public servants who might find themselves removed from their posts. [source]
- Deputy Commissioner-General of the Zimbabwe Republic Police, Innocent Matibiri, who is reportedly another of Robert Mugabe’s nephews, was reshuffled to an HR role. [source] Matibiri, along with the current (as of 28 November) Commissioner-General of the ZRP, Augustine Chihuri, were allegedly sent by Robert Mugabe to arrest ZDF Commander, Constantino Chiwenga on 13 November when he returned from a weekend-long trip to China.
Events on 27 November
- President Mnangagwa dissolved the Mugabe-era Cabinet, and appointed several interim ministers, including Patrick Chinamasa (reappointed to Finance Minister after he had been reshuffled to the newly established Ministry of Cyber Security by Robert Mugabe). [source]
- The Zimbabwe Defence Force and Zimbabwe Republic Police held a joint press conference, to announce that police and military personnel would commence joint patrols to prevent looting. The ZRP was effectively restricted from all operations in the immediate aftermath of the 15 November military coup. [source]
Events on 25 November
- During a bail hearing, Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo contradicted earlier claims by his lawyer that he (Chombo) had been assaulted while in military custody. Chombo instead recounted that he had suffered some bruises and lacerations during the course of his arrest when “about eight men in army uniforms” raided his home on 15 November. [source] Chombo was subsequently denied bail and remanded to custody on corruption charges. [source]
- ZANU-PF national youth secretary, Kudzai Chipanga, was denied bail and remanded to custody. Chipanga, who appeared alongside Ignatius Chombo, had been in military custody between 15 and 24 November, before being transferred to police custody. [source]
- ZANU-PF national youth commissar, Innocent Hamandishe was denied bail by a Harare court, and remanded to custody to face kidnapping charges, and also a charge of “publishing falsehoods prejudicial to the State” for comments he and Kudzai Chipanga made in a 13 November press conference, in opposition to ZDF Commander Chipanga’s intervention threats.[source]
Events on 24 November
- The High Court ruled that the ZDF’s actions were legal: “It is ordered by consent that the actions of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) in intervening to stop takeover of first respondent’s [Robert Mugabe’s] constitutional functions by those around him are constitutionally permissible and lawful”. The ruling was based on an application made by the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association. [source]
- Emmerson Mnangagwa was inaugurated as President of Zimbabwe
Events on 23 November
- ZDF Commander, Constantino Chiwenga, sued former Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo for defamation, over comments Moyo made in July, effectively accusing Chiwenga of having had his Doctorate, received from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (South Africa), ghostwritten. [source]
- While addressing a ZANU-PF rally in Harare, Emmerson Mnangagwa claimed to have been in contact with military authorities since the moment he was fired by Robert Mugabe, and fled the country. [source]
Events on 22 November
- Interim ZANU-PF leader and reinstated Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa arrived back in Zimbabwe, having fled to South Africa after being fired as Vice President. Mnangagwa is set to be confirmed as President of Zimbabwe on 24 November. [source]
- ZDF Chief, General Chiwenga addressed a press conference, calling for calm during the political transition, and warning against acts of revenge – saying that ZDF personnel would remain deployed to maintain peace [source].
Events on 21 November
- A joint sitting of the Senate and National Assembly in the Parliament of Zimbabwe accepted a motion calling for debate regarding the impeachment of President Robert Mugabe. [source]
- In Luanda, the SADC bloc troika met to discuss Zimbabwe, and resolved that Presidents Zuma (RSA) and Lourenco (Angola) would travel to Zimbabwe on 22 November. [source]
- ZANU-PF and opposition MDC-T MPs resolved to jointly support a motion to impeach President Mugabe. [source]
- President Robert Mugabe announced his resignation, in a letter that was read out to Parliament. [source]
Events on 20 November
- ZDF Commander, General Chiwenga, issued a statement, referring to the military intervention on 15 November as “Operation Restore Legacy“, and commending security forces’, the general public, and President Mugabe and other political leaders who were engaged in negotiations toward a ‘political roadmap’. Chiwenga did not personally name himself, or sign off in the letter. [source]
- President Robert Mugabe failed to announce his resignation as President, by 12h00, as ordered by the ZANU-PF central committee. [source]
- ZANU-PF issued a press statement announcing the institution of an impeachment process to remove Robert Mugabe as President of the country. [source]
- Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (ZNLWVA) chairman, Christopher Mutsvangwa, called for protests in Harare until President Mugabe left office. [source]
- The ZNLWVA filed a court application for the ZDF intervention to be legally interpreted as lawful. [source]
- Students at the University of Zimbabwe boycotted classes to demand the resignation of President Mugabe, calling for a general strike at all universities. [source]
Events on 19 November
- The ZANU-PF central committee held a special meeting in Harare, and resolved to remove Robert Mugabe as party president. [source]
- …resolved to reinstate Emerson Mnangagwa, and elected him as interim party president. [source]
- …gave President Robert Mugabe until midday on 20 November to resign as President of the country.
- …resolved to expel several G40 faction members, including First Lady Grace Mugabe, Vice President Mphoko, and Cabinet Ministers Jonathan Moyo, Saviour Kasukuwere, Patrick Zhuwao, Ignatius Chombo, Samuel Undenge, Walter Mzembi and Mandi Chimene. [source]
- President Robert Mugabe reading from prepared notes in a live broadcast, acknowledged difficulties facing the countries, but said that he would preside over the ZANU-PF electoral conference in December.
Events on 18 November
- In Harare, thousands of people held a protest march, demanding President Mugabe relinquish power. The #ThisFlag anti-government group appeared to play a prominent organisational role. [source]
- In Bulawyo, large crowds of protesters gather to demand that President Mugabe step down from power. [source]
Events on 17 November
- President Mugabe presided over a graduation ceremony at a University in Harare. Journalists reported that his appearance received cheers from the crowd. [source]
- Botswana President, Ian Khama, said that President Mugabe did not have regional diplomatic support and that he (Mugabe) should give up power. [source]
- Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Patrick Zhuwao, who is also President Mugabe’s nephew, had reportedly elected to remain in Argentina, where he had been visiting during the military takeover. [source]
- Local media reported that prominent ‘G40’ faction leaders, Jonathan Moyo and Saviour Kasukuwere, evaded arrest by ZDF personnel at their homes on 15 November, by seeking shelter with the Mugabe family at the Presidential residence. Speculation that they were subsequently arrested by ZDF personnel later on that day at the Presidential residence.[source]
- Vice President Phelekezela Mpoko was reported variously to be either in Dubai [source], or under ZDF-imposed house arrest in Chinhoyi. [source]
- Foreign Affairs Minister Walter Mzembi was reported to have been in Zambia, on State business, at the time of the military seizure on 15 November. [source]
Events on 16 November
- Media reports citing in ‘intelligence sources’ claim President Robert Mugabe is resisting negotiation efforts with the ZDF, which are being mediated by a Catholic priest. [source]
- At least five journalists (including at least one Kenyan journalist) were denied entry to Zimbabwe by Immigration Officers (emphasis: not ZDF personnel) [source]
- Reuters claimed to have seen Zimbabwean intelligence reports suggesting that the removal of President Mugabe had been undergoing planning for over a year [source].
- Media reported that President Mugabe and his family, along with “key” but unspecified senior allies were located in the “Blue Roof” presidential compound. [source]
- In Harare, a motorcade comprising presidential vehicles, but without Presidential Guards accompanying it, departed the “Blue Roof” Presidential compound. [source]
- MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai held a press conference in which he expressed a willingness to work with a coalition government. [source]
- President Mugabe, General Chiwega, and South African envoys met at the State House in Harare. The outcome of the meeting is unclear. [source]
- Unconfirmed reports that a deal has been reached for President Mugabe to formally step down in return for safe passage. [source]
- Key SADC representatives from Angola, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia met in Gaborone to discuss ongoing events in Zimbabwe. [source]
- Masvingo ZANU-PF representative, Paul Chimidze, was reportedly arrested by ZDF personnel in Bubi. [source]
- Namibia’s International Relations Minister denied any knowledge of Grace Mugabe having entered into Namibia. [source]
- Minister of Sports, Art and Culture, Makhosini Hlongwane, reportedly fled to Mozambique. [source]
President Mugabe meets with ZDF Chief General Chiwega and South African envoys in Harare on 16 November (source)
Events on 15 November
- Unverified claims on social media of three ‘explosions’ at around 1 AM in Harare.
- ZDF personnel seize control of Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation building in Pocket Hills area, Harare at 4 AM. Army spokesperson, Major General Sibusiso Moyo then appeared on a public broadcast, to announce that the military was “in charge” for the purpose of “dealing” with “criminals” who had surrounded President Mugabe. [source]
- Unconfirmed reports that military personnel had arrested leading figures of the ‘G40’ (pro-Grace Mugabe) faction in Zanu-PF, including Higher Education minister, Jonathan Moyo; Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere; and Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo. [source]
- Unconfirmed reports that President Robert Mugabe and Grace Mugabe, along with other family members have been placed under house arrest. Previous statements by the military claimed that the Mugabe family were “safe”.
- ZDF personnel seen blockading several roads within Harare, including similar armoured vehicles seen on the outskirts of the city on 14 November. Troops reportedly acted aggressively toward commuters/media in some instances, but have not yet actively restricted travel within the city. [source]
- UK embassy announces that it will be closed to the public on 15 November, citing political uncertainty. [source]
- At around 9 AM ZDF personnel disarm and make police who were stationed at the Parliament building sit in lines outside the building. [source]
- Unconfirmed claims that former Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa had landed at Manyame Air Force Base, located at Harare International Airport, from South Africa, and intends/is intended to take control of the government.
- Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association leader, Victor Matemadanda told reporters that the ZNLWVA supported the ZDF. [source]
- South African Presidency releases a statement that President Zuma had spoken with President Mugabe, who reportedly confirmed he was being detained at his home. The South African Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, and the Minister of State Security were reportedly to be sent to Zimbabwe to meet with President Mugabe and the Zimbabwean Defence Force. [source]
- At least one South African journalist was detained and deported while attempting to enter the country through Robert Mugabe International Airport (Harare International Airport)
- A speech by President Mugabe, which had been scheduled for midday was postponed.
- Zanu PF youth leader Rudzai Chipanga and Parliamentary staff were reported to have been detained by ZDF personnel. [source]
- African Union representatives reported to have said that events in Zimbabwe “seems like coup”, and have called for the (the Zimbabwean) constitution to be respected. [source]
- The South African National Defence Force Chief of Joint Operations, General Barney Hlatshwayo, reported that the SANDF was tightening controls on the border with Zimbabwe. [source]
- MDC-T secretary general, Douglas Mwonzora, claimed that party leader, Morgan Tsvangirai had returned to Zimbabwe and that the MDC-T supported the ZDF’s seizure of power. [source]
- Norton MP and former ZANU-PF member Temba Mliswa claimed during a TV interview with Al Jazeera that ZDF personnel had exchanged gunfire with personal security at Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo’s home, and that they had later found USD10 million in foreign currency hidden in the home. [source]
- Pictures, reportedly of Ignatius Chombo’s home, show damage attributed to bullets or shrapnel – purportedly damaged during fighting in the early morning when ZDF personnel arrested the Minister. [source]
- One Commando Regiment reportedly conducted searches at ZANU-PF headquarters in Harare. [source]
- Unconfirmed reports that gunfire was exchanged at Chikurubi Maximum Prison Barracks, possibly between Zimbabwe Republic Police and ZDF personnel during the early morning. Local media reports claimed ZRP personnel were being kept in confinement at the Chikurubi barracks. [source]
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
- ZANU-PF Information Secretary, SK Moyo, denounces ZDF Chief, General Constantino Chiwenga, as “treasonous” for threatening to employ the military to end purges within the ZANU-PF. [source]
- The ZANU-PF Youth League issued a statement voicing support for the Mugabe family. [source]
- Imagery of tracked armoured vehicles on the outskirts of Harare was posted to social media. Videos showed, at most, three or four armoured personnel carriers travelling, or parked on the side of the road (Kirkman Road), seemingly travelling from the direction of Chinhoyi, and subsequently concentrating around Dzivarasekwa area on the western periphery of the city (which is the location of the Presidential Guard Brigade Barracks).
- Vehicles seen in imagery on the outskirts of Harare on 14 November (and within the city on 15 November) appear to be the same armoured personnel carriers. More specifically, some of these are variants of Chinese-made Type 89 (modern designation, ZSD-89). The Zimbabwe owned version is the ZSD-89-II – presumably operated by the Mechanised Brigade, located at the Inkomo Barracks, near Harare. (more on these vehicles available here)
- The Zimbabwean ambassador to South Africa, Isaac Moyo, told media that the government was “intact” and dismissed any talk of a possible coup as merely “social media claims”. [source]
- Further reports on social media of military personnel seen within the city. Simultaneous but possibly unrelated reports appear on social media of police/military personnel conducting raid(s) on NGO(s) within the city.
- The US Embassy tells its support staff to remain at home, and closes access to the public for the day, citing “political uncertainty”. [source]
Key trends or events to watch for in the coming weeks:
- Clarification of precisely who is involved/leading the coup – is the military unified? What of the Zimbabwe Republic Police?
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]
- Counter coup activity by ZANU-PF Youth League/G40 faction/Presidential Guard/Zimbabwe Republic Police.
- Involvement and responses by regional actors: South Africa, Botswana, SADC regional bloc, African Union.
- Repression of media, activists or opposition parties, or the targeting of ZANU-PF G40 faction leaders.
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)
- Vice President Phelekezela Mpoko: reported variously to be either in Dubai [source], or under ZDF-imposed house arrest in Chinhoyi, as of 17 November [source]
- Minister of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Patrick Zhuwao (President Mugabe’s nephew): in Argentina, where he had been visiting at the time of the military seizure of power. [source]
- Minister of Higher Education, Jonathan Moyo: escaped arrest at his home by taking shelter at the Presidential residence on 15 November. Later reportedly arrested by ZDF but also reported to be in hiding.
- Minister of Local Government, Saviour Kasukuwere: escaped arrest at his home by taking shelter at the Presidential residence on 15 November. Later reportedly arrested by ZDF.
- Minister of Foreign Affairs, Walter Mzembi, reported to be in Zambia: on State business, at the time of the military seizure on 15 November. [source]
- Minister of Sports, Art and Culture, Makhosini Hlongwane: reportedly fled to Mozambique on 16 November. [source]
- Minister of Defence, Sydney Sekeramai: location and status unknown.
- Minister of Home Affairs, Kembo Mohadi: location and status unknown.
- Minister of Information, Simon Khaya Moyo: reportedly in hiding. [source]
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.