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Crisis in Zimbabwe – a summary

As of 16 November, President Robert Mugabe is under house arrest following a takeover by the military in Zimbabwe, with a likely changeover of power to follow. This ends Mr. Mugabe’s 37-year tenure in power following a revolution to break free of British rule in 1980.

On November 15 the military officially took over state media, broadcasting a message that they were targeting “criminals” surrounding the president, adding that the military were keeping Mr. Mugabe “safe”.

“As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy. To the civil servants, as you are aware, there is a plan by the same people to influence the current purging that is taking place in the political sphere to the civil service. We are against that act of injustice and we intend to protect every one of you against that.”

The announcement advised against unnecessary movement or travel. No major conflicts or violence have been reported so far, although gunshots and explosions were reported on social media in several places. Photographs also emerged of the military disarming the police.

Public opinion seems largely in support of the military, with the people of Zimbabwe having seen mass migration and poverty under Mr. Mugabe’s rule. Following his arrest, a joint statement by over 100 civil society groups urged the president to allow a peaceful takeover. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai called for his resignation and a transition of power, and ex-vice president Joice Mujuru called for “free, fair and credible elections.”

The international community has been reluctant to condemn the military takeover, with the removal of Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace Mugabe being seen largely as positive, and a step away from dictatorship.

In an address to the House of Commons, UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said, “Authoritarian rule, whether in Zimbabwe or anywhere else, should have no place in Africa… Elections are due to be held in the first half of next year. We will do all we can with our international partners to ensure this provides a genuine opportunity for all Zimbabweans to decide their future.”

Following his rise to power, 93-year-old Robert Mugabe has been described as one of the most tyrannical African dictators, having been banned from visiting the UK at one point, and is known for having his political opponents jailed or killed. The economy of Zimbabwe declined significantly under him, with inflation rising by a whopping 500 billion per cent following mass money printing in 2008, according to the International Monetary Fund.

Grace Mugabe, Mr. Mugabe’s secretary prior to the death of his first wife, was in line for presidency after Mr. Mugabe’s death or retirement following the abrupt dismissal of then vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa for “disloyalty, disrespect, deceit and being unreliable”, according the country’s information ministry.

As this article went to print, it was announced that Zimbabwe’s ruling party, Zanu-PF, would be removing Robert Mugabe as party leader, to be replaced with the recently fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa​. First Lady Grace Mugabe is also due to be removed from her position within the party.