AP NEWS

Zimbabwe: A guide to what’s happened so far in Mugabe drama

November 18, 2017

Part of an election poster from the 2008 Zanu Pf election campaign is seen the wall of a dilapidated building in the Mbara suburb of Harare, Friday Nov. 17, 2017. State broadcaster ZBC — for decades, a mouthpiece for the Robert Mugabe government — reported on the surging campaign for his ouster and showed video of ruling party members saying he should resign. (AP Photo)

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — A lot has happened in the past few days in Zimbabwe, where the world’s oldest head of state tries to remain in power even under military house arrest. Thousands of giddy Zimbabweans are in the streets to demand his departure, tired of a collapsing economy that once was one of Africa’s strongest. Here’s a quick guide to the key events and players:

MUGABE

The 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe has been under house arrest since Tuesday, when the military moved in. That decision was sparked by Mugabe’s firing of his longtime deputy, leading to fears that the president was positioning his unpopular wife, Grace, to succeed him. Mugabe is said to be asking for more time amid negotiations on his departure. The military has been taking pains to refer to him as president and allowed him to make a public appearance Friday at a graduation ceremony, where he received polite applause.

THE PEOPLE

Several thousand people are in the streets of the capital, Harare, to demand Mugabe’s exit as Zimbabweans giddily explore the rare freedom of expression amid the political limbo. Saturday’s demonstration was approved by the military and has participation from across the political spectrum, from Mugabe’s once-staunch loyalists among the liberation war veterans to opposition activists long-used to police crackdowns.

THE MILITARY

Zimbabwe’s army commander on Monday threatened to “step in” after Mugabe fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, and the next day he did. In an extraordinary image later in the week, state-run media published photos of Gen. Constantino Chiwenga shaking hands with a smiling Mugabe at the State House as negotiations with regional leaders continued. The military is trying not to project the image of a coup, which could bring regional sanctions and further harm the country’s standing with international investors.

THE RULING PARTY

The state-run broadcaster on Friday night devoted its nightly news to footage of ruling ZANU-PF party leaders across the country calling on Mugabe to step aside and calling him old and incapacitated. All 10 provincial party branches have passed no-confidence votes and asked for a Central Committee meeting within two days as the party moves to recall Mugabe and possibly press for impeachment when Parliament resumes Tuesday.

THE NEXT LEADERS?

Mnangagwa fled the country shortly after his firing by Mugabe and his whereabouts are unknown. He is expected to lead any new government, and his supporters say he will make a public appearance once arrangements for Mugabe’s exit are complete. High-profile opposition leaders such as Morgan Tsvangiari, who shared power with Mugabe between 2009 and 2013 before losing disputed elections, are expected to play a role in a new government, but they have said they have not been contacted by those taking part in the Mugabe negotiations.

THE FIRST LADY

Grace Mugabe has been out of the picture, literally, since the military stepped in. Once ever-present at her husband’s side at public events, she has not been seen in days. The quick-tempered first lady, deeply unpopular among Zimbabweans for her lavish spending, did not accompany the president at Friday’s graduation ceremony. She was not pictured in the photographs of the State House negotiations. Despite rumors that she has fled the country, she is thought to remain under house arrest. In one example of Zimbabweans’ anger at the idea of her becoming their next president, one sign at Saturday’s massive demonstration read: “Leadership is not sexually transmitted.”

AP RADIO
Update hourly