I Slept Through a Military Coup
If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck. This was a coup!
When the script of a military takeover is written there is usually no part for the ordinary man.
This is mainly because of two reasons; coups heavily depend on secrecy until they are finally successful and coups by their violent nature are not carried out by the ordinary man in the street.
It's a Tuesday, the 14th of November 2017 and I go to work as usual.
The day has been progressing quite uneventful until around midday. Reports of military tanks seen moving from outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital, towards the city begin to circulate amongst concerned citizens on twitter.
This is happening a day after army chief has denounced the President during a press statement to the media for the sacking of his ally, Vice President Mnangagwa.
The vice president had been viewed by many as a front-runner in succeeding the veteran 93-year-old Robert Mugabe but Mugabe’s wife, Grace was also said to be harbouring presidential ambitions.
When I saw these reports I dismissed them as just fake news from trolls who wanted to paint a picture that is not there. You wouldn't dream of a coup happening under Mugabe’s regime, let alone even think about it. Besides, the military PR team downplayed these reports by saying that the tanks were on an auto-recovery exercise to recover machinery that had broken down in that area.
After work, I embarked on my 40km drive back home and I did not see any tale-tale signs of a military operation that is about to take place — and now that I think of it, what are the signs that one can use to tell that something of that nature is about to be put into motion?
I got home rather tired and around 9 pm I retire to bed.
The following is a timeline of events that occurred during the day that I had dismissed as fake news as well as what happened while I slept. I was only able to put this timeline together after talking to friends who had kept themselves updated via WhatsApp as well as following tweets and Facebook alerts that fellow citizens had posted through the night as events unfolded.
As previously promised, the book exploring this topic deeper and further is now finished and ready for you.
Timeline from Tuesday Midday to Wednesday morning:
Tuesday midday; Military armoured vehicles are spotted on motorways headed for Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe and later in the evening they arrive and drive in convoys through the city.
Tuesday afternoon; Mugabe attends a weekly meeting of the Zimbabwe cabinet. In the early evening after the cabinet meeting, the spokesperson for the ruling party accused the army Chief of treason and inciting insurrection.
Tuesday evening; The leader of the ruling ZANU–PF party’s youth league, which is aligned to Grace Mugabe issues a press statement saying that the Youth League was “ready to die” trying and prevent the army from deposing Mugabe.
10:30 pm; The director of security of the Intelligence Organisation is arrested by soldiers after leaving Mugabe’s home.
11:00 pm — 04:00 am; Soldiers take over the Harare offices of the state broadcaster, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC).
Gunfire and artillery are heard in the northern suburbs of Harare, where many government officials, including the president, had their residences.
Soldiers also block access to the Parliament of Zimbabwe, government buildings, courthouses, and the president’s official residence in Harare.
The army then proceeds to raid the homes of Minister of Higher Education, Minister of Local Government, and his family. These homes are attacked by the army around 2.30 am with gunfire before a ceasefire allowed the two families to escape to Mugabe’s home.
The army also raids the home of Finance Minister, but they come under fire from his private Israeli security guards. One member of the guard is killed. The minister is detained by the troops and US$10 million in cash is found in his house.
Police duties had been restricted
Wednesday 5 am; Major General Sibusiso Moyo, the army chief of staff dressed in fatigues and a beret appears on TV and speaks on behalf of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces in a broadcast on ZBC.
Wednesday 6 am; I wake up. For most of Wednesday morning, state-controlled television and radio stations simply rebroadcast Moyo’s statement without further news updates and play patriotic songs from the 1980s about independence alongside normal programming.
State-owned newspaper The Herald runs headlines downplaying the military’s actions and its website run a live blog under the headline “Live and developing: No Military Takeover in Zim”.
The military, envoys from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional bloc and the negotiators from the church then tried to reason with Mugabe to leave power in a peaceful resignation process. Mugabe, a hard man to negotiate with, dug in.
He refused to step down.
Veterans of Zimbabwe’s war of independence from Britain then called for mass anti-Mugabe street protests on Saturday 18 November 2018. Thousands of protesters flood Zimbabwe’s streets demanding Mugabe’s resignation.
The peaceful demonstrations — organised by independence war veterans and backed by ZANU-PF barons and the army — included a sit-in protest within 200 metres of the statehouse which was the nerve centre of Mugabe’s authoritarian rule.
The ruling party insisted that Mugabe resigns as president by midday Monday, or face impeachment. But in a live televised address, Mugabe defied expectations, instead of saying he would preside over ZANU-PF’s congress in December.
Only on November 21 when ZANU-PF and the main opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had set impeachment plans in motion in parliament — the old man then capitulated!
When the speaker of parliament read out his resignation letter the whole parliament session was engulfed by jubilation — jubilation which later and spilled into the streets and the country-side.
At the end the fact that I had slept while history unfolded no longer mattered as long as a despot had finally fallen.