The situation in Harare and the rest of Zimbabwe appears to be calm today, after the army took control of the city early yesterday and put President Mugabe and several ministers under house arrest.
The putsch does not seem to have triggered any violence or unrest in the past 24 hours. Soldiers remain deployed at strategically important sites, such as parliament and the state broadcaster, throughout the city. Although our security contacts there have told us that the military presence is not as large as yesterday.
Our sources have also said that internet and other telecommunication services are working as normal. Harare International Airport also appears to be operating normally, as it did all of yesterday. Several people in the capital told us yesterday that they had observed soldiers searching vehicles entering and leaving the airport, but it is unclear if this is still the case today, or what the purpose of these searches was.
The immediate political implications of the military’s intervention remain unclear. There have been persistent rumours in traditional and social media, and in security circles, over the past 24 hours that the army is pressing Mugabe to step down to pave the way for a transitional government. Reuters cited a ‘senior source’ this morning as saying that the president is insisting that he stay on in his post and has refused mediation.
Given that there have been no major political developments announced in the past 24 hours, it seems likely that there is some veracity to the report from Reuters today. This means that Mugabe staying on as president – probably with significantly reduced power and influence – appears to be a credible scenario, at least until the next election, which is due by August 2018, or until a transition within the governing ZANU-PF party takes place.
It seems almost certain that any deal will involve the removal of Grace Mugabe, the president’s wife, from any formal role in the government or ZANU-PF. South African media outlets speculated yesterday that Mrs Mugabe had fled to Namibia, although the Namibian foreign minister said that he was not aware that this had happened.