After 37-year grip on power: How army ousted Robert Mugabe in bloodless coup

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Robert Mugabe
  • 93-year-old Mugabe, wife, family detained
  • Sacked Vice President Mnangagwa returns from exile, to head interim govt
  • US, British citizens advised by their govts to stay indoors

“Only God, who appointed me, will remove me – not the MDC, not the British. Only God will remove me!” — Robert Mugabe boasted at an election rally in 2008, but nine years later, Mugabe was ousted in a military “bloodless coup.” 

After days of warnings, the military has taken over government of Zimbabwe from 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe in a bloodless coup.

The military coup, if sustained has ended Mugabe’s 37 years of autocratic and one party rule in Zimbabwe, a government, which critics and many global watchers had condemned for its several abuse of democratic norms which made it possible for Mugabe to hold on to power for decades.

More so, 75-year-old former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was a veteran of Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation wars, on his return from exile has been named ZANU PF’s new interim president.

The sacked vice president, Mnangagwa, popularly known as ‘The Crocodile’

The power tussle and political rift between Mugabe and his deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa had hightened tension in Zimbabwe, especially after the sack of the vice president.

The rancour at the seat of government had, on Monday, forced the army chief, General Constantino Chiwenga, to caution the government as it demanded an end to the purge in the ruling Zanu-PF party. He warned the military could intervene.

Robert Mugabe and his wife, Grace

With the sack of Mnangagwa and purge in government, many political players in Zimbabwe had feared this could clear the way for 52-year-old Mugabe’s wife, Grace, to succeed him.

After the “bloodless transition,” Mugabe and his wife, Grace are said to have been detained by the military authorities after the bloodless transition of power, while the sacked vice president, Mnangagwa, who had been in exile returned to lead an interim government.

Eerlier before its final take over on Wednesday morning, the military, had on Tuesday rolled out their tanks on the streets of Zimbabwe, blocking roads outside the parliament in Harare.

This was followed by a late-night television address delivered by senior soldiers in what was seen as a subtle take over of government from Mugabe.

After the military take over on Wednesday morning, a Twitter account belonging to the country’s ruling party alerted the world that 93-year-old Mugabe and his family were being “detained.”

The party also informed that President  Mugabe had been “taken advantage of by his wife,” Grace, who had been seen as a possible successor to her husband.

The United States Embassy in Zimbabwe had ordered its US citizens and employees in Zimbabwe, “to take cover and seek shelter,” while the British citizens have also been advised to stay indoors amid reports of “unusual military activity.”

However, the tweets denied there had been a coup, saying:  ‘There has been a decision to intervene because our constitution had been undermined, in the interim Comrade E Mnagngawa will be president of ZANU-PF as per the constitution of our revolutionary organisation.

“Last night the first family was detained and are safe, both for the constitution and the sanity of the nation this was necessary.

“Neither Zimbabwe nor ZANU-PF are owned by Mugabe and his wife. Today begins a fresh new era and comrade Mnangagwa will help us achieve a better Zimbabwe.

“There was no coup, only a bloodless transition which saw corrupt and crooked persons being arrested and an elderly man who had been taken advantage of by his wife being detained.

Military tanks on Harare streets.

“The few bangs that were heard were from crooks who were resisting arrest, but they are now detained.’

How the military took over

On Tuesday night Zimbabwe’s military took over control of Zimbabwe’s national broadcaster’s studios, and in a somewhat “friendly” approach, broadcast to the nation it is “targeting criminals” and enemies of government.

Tension had risen in Zimbabwe after Mugabe sacked Vice President Mnangagwa with the military cautioning the nation while citizens lived amid fears of a coup following reports of explosions and gunfire in the capital, Harare after the military rolled out tanks on Tuesday.

The party had accused the military of  rolling out tanks into Zimbabwe’s capital Tuesday night, while this threw the nation in political chaos with the army chief accused of attempting a coup.

There had been series of attempts to halt Mugabe’s 37-year grip on power, but it was the sack of his deputy, Mnangagwa popularly known as “The Crocodile” that climaxed the age long attempts.

Over time, Mnangagwa, who has won the trust of the military with a close ties maintained, had been been touted as Mugabe’s natural sucessor, but this was not to happen again, as it was later believed that his sack was for Mugabe to pave the way for his wife, Grace, to succeed him.

ZANU-PF has said it would never succumb to military’s overthrow of government or  succumb to its pressure, rather, it accused army chief General Constantino Chiwenga of “treasonable conduct.”

Reports said the military had sealed off the capital city, Harare, including the military headquarters in the city, with no one allowed in or out, with road blocks said to have been placed outside the barracks of the presidential guard.

Reports also said Zimbabwean borders had been sealed and the airport shut, although others insisted reports of a coup had been exaggerated.

General Chiwenga addressed the media in Harare on the “instability” in Zanu-PF, alongside some 90 senior military figures.

Mugabe’s deputy, Mnangagwa, was sacked last week by President Mugabe, along with several other party members.

Further to his sack, the former vice president was also expelled from Zanu-PF, the ruling party where he had served for over 40 years, even as a loyalist of Mugabe.

The army chief, Chiwenga said: “It is with humility and a heavy heart that we come before you to pronounce the indisputable reality that there is instability in Zanu-PF today and as a result anxiety in the country at large,” General Chiwenga said.  “We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in.”

“The current purging which is clearly targeting members of the party with liberation (war) backgrounds must stop forthwith.There is distress, trepidation and despondency within the nation.”

The two rivals in Mugabe’s cabinet, Emmerson Mnangagwa and First Lady Grace Mugabe.

The cracks in Mugabe’e government became obvious in August, when clashes were reported in central Harare between the Zimbabwe Republic Police said to be loyal to first lady Grace Mugabe and her allies in a Zanu-PF faction, G40 and soldiers said to be loyal to Mnangagwa.

Not long after this period, Mnangagwa said he was poisoned at a rally addressed by Mugabe, after which he said he was airlifted by a military aircraft to South Africa where he saidhe spent almost two weeks in hospital.

This probably the reason Mnangagwa fled the country immediately he was sacked and dismissed from the party, ZANU-PF by Mugabe. He fled to Johannesburg, South Africa last Wednesday, and on his arrival to the country a week later on Wednesday morning, he was announced the leader of the interim government in a purported transition programme ZANU-PF said it had put in place.

 

Profile | Robert Mugabe

Born: 21 February 1924 (age 93)

Full name: Robert Gabriel Mugabe

Nickname: “Uncle Bob”

Education: Bachelor of Arts, Fort Hare. Mugabe also earned six further degrees, including two Law degrees completed while he was in prison.

Career:

1955–60 – Secondary school teacher in Zambia and Ghana

1960–63 – Political activist, Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu-PF)

1964–74 – Imprisoned by Rhodesian government

1974 onwards – Zanu-PF leader

1980–1987 – Prime Minister of Zimbabwe

1987–present – President of Zimbabwe

Britons, Americans told to stay indoors as soldiers patrol Harare streets

British nationals in Zimbabwe are being advised to stay indoors after tanks and soldiers were seen on the streets of Harare.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) issued a statement this morning also urging UK citizens to avoid political activity following rising tensions in the African country.

Soldiers on the streets of Harare.

The FCO guidance said: “Due to the uncertain political situation in Harare, including reports of unusual military activity, we recommend British nationals currently in Harare to remain safely at home or in their accommodation until the situation becomes clearer.”

The FCO also warned British nationals to steer clear of political activities and anything that could be considered criticism of President Mugabe for their own safety.

The statement added: ‘You should avoid political activity, or activities which could be considered political, including political discussions in public places and criticism of the President.

“You should avoid all demonstrations and rallies. The authorities have sometimes used force to suppress demonstrations.”

The Mail Online quoted the British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, as saying events were being monitored closely and Britons were advised to “remain at home or in accommodation until (the) situation is clearer.”

The UK’s acting ambassador to Zimbabwe Simon Thomas said: “I can confirm that military remain deployed at strategic locations around Harare this morning.

A soldier on the street of Harare.

“As an embassy our prime concern is obviously for the safety and security of British nationals and our advice to any British nationals who are here in Harare, either living or working or visiting, is to stay at home, stay in your hotel room, wait until things settle down a little bit.”

Meanwhile the US embassy in Zimbabwe warned its citizens in the country to ‘shelter in place’ over the uncertainty.

“As a result of the ongoing political uncertainty through the night, the Ambassador has instructed all employees to remain home (Wednesday),’ the embassy in Harare said in a statement. The embassy will be minimally staffed and closed to the public.

“US citizens in Zimbabwe are encouraged to shelter in place until further notice.”

World’s oldest dictator: The bloodshed and vote-rigging in Mugabe’s 37-year rule

First Lady, Grace Mugabe, 52, pictured with her husband, Robert Mugabe, has been seen as being a successor to her husband.

Robert Mugabe’s legacy as one of the most ruthless tyrants of modern times will remain long after his days as notorious statesman of Zimbabwe are over.

What could turn out to be the 93-year-old leader’s final night in charge of the troubled south African nation concluded in typically chaotic fashion with the army saying it had Mugabe and his ambitious wife Grace in custody following a takeover of the state broadcaster.

Tensions escalated after the first lady appeared to be positioned to replace Mugabe’s recently fired deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa, leading many in Zimbabwe to suspect she could eventually succeed her husband.

The elderly politician’s second wife – after Sarah Hayfron died in 1992 – remained unpopular with some Zimbabweans because of her lavish spending, including in London’s plush stores, while many around her struggled against the country’s crippling economy.

Mugabe’s savage rule over Zimbabwe was dominated by murder, bloodshed, torture, persecution of political opponents, intimidation and vote-rigging on a grand scale.

He was the man who, in 1980, became the head of government of Zimbabwe, chosen to guide the country towards “democracy” after 14 years of rebellion against the Crown headed by white Southern Rhodesian leader Ian Smith.

Robert Mugabe acknowledging cheers from supporters.

Much of Mugabe’s dirty work was carried out by his bullying henchmen, ‘veterans’ of the guerrilla war against the Smith regime.

They attacked and often murdered white farmers, burning their homes, looting their possessions and confiscating their land, while his political opponents were often beaten, s3xually abused and sometimes charged with treason and homos3xual offences.

The economy of this mineral-rich country descended into chaos with thousands of people reduced to grinding poverty, many of them suffering from near-starvation and worse.

Mugabe’s relationship with the Commonwealth, which he dubbed an ‘Anglo-Saxon unholy alliance’, was always stormy.

Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth in March 2002 after Mugabe was denounced for vote-rigging his own re-election.

During the Commonwealth heads of government conference a year later, he quit the organisation while member states were arguing about Zimbabwe’s future.

Princess Diana during her visit to President Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe, in 1993.

Robert Gabriel Mugabe was born on February 24 1924 in Kutama. He was educated at Kutama Mission School and Fort Hare University and obtained degrees in correspondence courses with other educational establishments, including London University.

He worked as a teacher at various schools in Zimbabwe (or Southern Rhodesia as it was then) and in neighbouring countries.

Mugabe became publicity secretary of the National Democratic Party in 1960 and the following year was appointed acting secretary-general of the Zimbabwe African People’s Union, which was eventually banned.

He suffered political detention in 1962 and the following year co-founded and became secretary-general of ZANU-PF. Again he was sentenced, without trial, to political detention in 1964, but escaped in 1974 to Mozambique from where he led the armed struggle against the regime right up to 1979.

When, through Lord (Christopher) Soames, Margaret Thatcher brokered a deal in 1979 to end the Ian Smith rebellion, to everyone’s surprise, the Marxist Mugabe – with what was described as ‘a mix of conciliatory and intimidatory rhetoric’ – became prime minister from 1980 to 1987. From 1988 he was president of Zimbabwe.

The new government, anxious to attract foreign investment, declared that white farmers were a welcome and integral part of the new Zimbabwe.

Then the land seizures took place. Plans to redistribute land peacefully were not working and ultimately the wartime ‘veterans’ were sent in to dispossess the white farmers of their land, often violently.

Much of Mugabe's dirty work was carried out by his bullying henchmen, 'veterans' of the guerrilla war against the S Robert Mugabe is pictured with his wife Sally s in 1987
Mugabe pictured with his wife, Sally, in 1987.

Meanwhile, as Mugabe grew into his 70s he became paranoid. He believed his opponents were trying to kill him.

Any voice of dissidence was met with violence and, in the case of an independent newspaper, shut down.

Political enemies were accused of homos3xuality, and thrown into jail. Peter Tatchell, the human rights campaigner, was assaulted by Mugabe’s bodyguards in 2001 when he tried to make a citizen’s arrest on the Zimbabwean leader.

The sanctions imposed on the country at one stage barred Mugabe and his family and supporters from visiting Britain.

But despite an EU travel ban, he was allowed to attend the funeral of Pope John Paul II in Rome in 2005.

While there he shook hands with the Prince of Wales, who was seated one place away from the president. Clarence House said Charles was ‘caught by surprise’ when Mugabe leaned over to greet him.

Under Mugabe many humble Zimbabweans became billionaires, but ones on the brink of starvation and unable to pay for fuel because their money was worth so little thanks to stratospheric inflation.

In 2008 and 2009, the state’s central bank printed so much of its currency – the Zimbabwe dollar – that the country experienced mind-boggling hyperinflation that reached 500 billion per cent, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The result was that items such as a loaf of bread would often cost millions of Zimbabwean dollars.

In 2008 Mugabe was stripped of his honorary knighthood, awarded in 1994, over his abuse of human rights and 'abject disregard' for democracy, the Foreign Office said at the time. The Queen approved the annulment
In 2008, the Queen approved the stripped of Mugabe his honorary knighthood, awarded in 1994, over his abuse of human rights and “abject disregard” for democracy.

As his dictatorial reign continued, many voiced their concerns about the power-obsessed leader. The then Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, cut up his dog collar on live television in a dramatic protest.

In 2008 Mugabe was stripped of his honorary knighthood, awarded in 1994, over his abuse of human rights and ‘abject disregard’ for democracy, the Foreign Office said at the time. The Queen approved the annulment.

But he was admired by some. In late 2015 he was awarded China’s alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize, the Confucius Peace Prize, for what its committee called his inspired national leadership and service to pan-Africanism.

Mugabe had two sons and one daughter with Grace, while his first marriage produced one son who died.

Zimbabwe President’s long rule at a glance:

1980: Mugabe named prime minister after independence elections

1982: Military action begins in Matabeleland against perceived uprising; government is accused of killing thousands of civilians

1987: Mugabe changes constitution and becomes president

1994: Mugabe receives honorary British knighthood

2000: Land seizures of white-owned farms begin; Western donors cut off aid

2005: United States calls Zimbabwe an ‘outpost of tyranny’

2008: Mugabe and opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirayi agree to share power after contested election; Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II annuls Mugabe’s honorary knighthood

2011: Prime Minister Tsvangirayi declares power-sharing a failure amid violence

2013: Mugabe wins seventh term; opposition alleges election fraud

2016: (hash)ThisFlag protest movement emerges; independence war veterans turn on Mugabe, calling him ‘dictatorial’

2017: Mugabe begins campaigning for 2018 elections

November 6: Mugabe fires deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa, appearing to position first lady Grace Mugabe for vice president post

November 15: Army announces it has Mugabe and his wife in custody as military appears to take control

The military has been a key pillar of Mugabe’s regime and has helped him keep control despite economic ruin, widespread anti-government protests, opposition challenges and international sanctions.

But there has been growing disquiet over threats against senior figures inside Zanu-PF, including Mr Mnangagwa.

The veteran of the Seventies war that led to the country’s independence fell from favour after he spoke out against a party faction led by Mrs Mugabe, saying it was ‘plundering the country’.

After Mugabe accused him of using witchcraft in a plot to take power, Mr Mnangagwa fled the country with his family, but vowed to return and lead a rebellion against the Mugabes, backed by the country’s war veterans and armed forces.

Before he went into exile, Mr Mnangagwa told Mugabe that Zanu-PF was ‘not personal property for you and your wife to do as you please’.

How Zimbabwe’s first lady has divided opinion

Zimbabwe’s first lady has been a divisive figure since marrying Robert Mugabe in a lavish ceremony in 1996.

The influence of 52-year-old Grace Mugabe, dubbed ‘Gucci Grace’ for her love of shopping, has grown over the years to the point where she was being lined up as a potential successor to her husband.

But the former secretary, who was expecting to be appointed vice-president at a party congress next month, is widely loathed in her homeland.

Her recent escapades include seeing a journalist detained for saying she donated used underwear to supporters, and relying on diplomatic immunity to evade charges for assaulting a model in South Africa.

Zimbabwe's first lady Grace Mugabe has been a divisive figure since marrying Robert Mugabe in a lavish ceremony in 1996. The couple are pictured together in 2004
Zimbabwe’s first lady Grace Mugabe has been a divisive figure since marrying Robert Mugabe in a lavish ceremony in 1996.

Grace began an affair with Robert Mugabe while working as one of his typists and while his first wife, Sally, was terminally ill.

He is said to have wooed Grace Marufu over tea and scones. They went on to marry in an extravagant ceremony in 1996.

Her three sons, one from a previous marriage, angered Zimbabweans by flaunting their wealth.

The youngest recently filmed himself pouring expensive champagne over a diamond-encrusted watch, bragging he owned the timepiece because ‘daddy runs the whole country’.

In her earlier years as Mugabe’s wife, Grace had been known as a quiet figure known for her shopping and charity work. But she became increasingly involved in politics and Mugabe named her head of the ruling ZANU-PF party’s women’s wing in 2014.

She has always been a key supporter of her husband, but admitted in 2014: “They say I want to be president. Why not? Am I not a Zimbabwean?”

His ousting was widely interpreted as a bid to ensure Mrs Mugabe would become vice president at a special conference of the ruling party next month, leaving her as the natural successor to her husband as president.

Surrounded by 90 senior army officers, General Chiwenga called this week for an end to the sacking of senior figures linked to the party’s ‘revolution’ against white minority rule in the Seventies.

He said: ‘We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in.’

Mugabe had previously warned military leaders against interfering in the fight for succession.

In July, he told supporters: ‘Politics shall always lead the gun, and not the gun politics. Otherwise it will be a coup.’

Opposition politicians have said a military coup would damage Zimbabwe because it would be undemocratic.

Last night the Foreign Office updated its advice for people travelling to Zimbabwe.

Warning: Zimbabwe Army chief Constantino Chiwenga (right) addresses a media conference in Harare on Monday
Zimbabwe Army chief, Constantino Chiwenga (right) addresses a media conference in Harare, on Monday.

Key incidents which led to coup in Zimbabwe

July: Robert Mugabe warns military leaders against interfering in the fight for succession, saying: ‘Politics shall always lead the gun, and not the gun politics. Otherwise it will be a coup’

November 6: Vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa – nicknamed The Crocodile – is fired by Mugabe

November 13: Zimbabwe’s head of the military says he could ‘step in’ to end President Mugabe’s ‘purge’ of opponents

November 14:  Ruling ZANU-PF party to hits back saying it would never succumb to military pressure and described the statement by the armed forces chief as ‘treasonable conduct’ 

It said: ‘We are aware of reports of military vehicles moving on the outskirts of Harare. We are monitoring the situation closely.

‘You should avoid political activity, or activities which could be considered political, including political discussions in public places and criticism of the president.

‘You should avoid all demonstrations and rallies. The authorities have sometimes used force to suppress demonstrations.’

Mugabe is the only leader Zimbabwe has known in 37 years of independence – first as the chair of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANY), then as leader of the ZANY party as Prime Minister and then President.

Under Mugabe’s leadership the GDP of Zimbabwe has fallen by almost 50 per cent, according to the United Nations.

The country suffered badly during the recession and experienced hyperinflation and a widespread lack of food and other essentials.

Things have slightly recovered, but are still significantly worse than when the family took power.

Meanwhile, the Mugabe’s themselves live their lives bathing in eye-watering luxury.

The couple’s two sons, Chatunga and his brother Robert Jr, are well-known for their hard partying and have been seen flashing their riches on social media.

This week Chatunga posted a video of himself pouring hundreds of pounds worth of champagne over a £45,000 diamond-encrusted wristwatch,

The brothers caused an international incident earlier this year while in South Africa, after the disappeared on a wild night out, prompting Mrs Mugabe to go looking for them.

Finding 20-year-old model Gabriella Engels instead, Mrs Mugabe allegedly beat her over the head with an electrical plug when she was unable to say where the boys had gone.

That led to a warrant being issued for her arrest, though she was eventually granted diplomatic immunity and allowed to leave the country.

Mrs Mugabe is currently suing  a Lebanese jeweller for failing to deliver a £1million diamond ring she bought to mark her 21st wedding anniversary with the dictator.

Is the Crocodile any better than Mugabe? Deposed vice-president who has seized power in Zimbabwe is a London-educated former spymaster ‘who orchestrated 1980s massacre of 20,000 opponents’ 

By Iain Burns for MailOnline 

Mnangagwa, 75, has had a long and varied political career, leading at one point the justice, defence, housing and finance ministries as well as being the speaker of the lower house and spymaster

Mnangagwa, 75, has had a long and varied political career, leading at one point the justice, defence, housing and finance ministries as well as being the speaker of the lower house and spymaster

The man believed to be behind the events in Zimbabwe today is the country’s recently sacked vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa – also known as ‘The Crocodile’.

Mnangagwa, 75, is a notorious and much-feared figure in Zimbabwe, having led a vicious crackdown on opponents in the 1980s with the help of the dreaded North Korean-trained Fifth Army brigade.

Thousands of civilians were killed during the Gukurahundi campaign, but Mnangagwa has always denied involvement.

He has had a long and varied political career, leading at one point the justice, defence, housing and finance ministries as well as being the speaker of the lower house and a spymaster.

Mnangagwa was widely viewed as Mugabe’s successor until he was ditched by the president last week and fled to South Africa.

Mugabe had accused his former deputy of plotting to take power from him, while his ambitious wife Grace referred to him as a snake that ‘must be hit on the head’ after the two clashed.

But Mnangagwa, who recently survived a poisoning attempt blamed on ice-cream from Mugabe’s own dairy, has been telling allies he would return rapidly and everything would soon be ‘sorted’.

He is a leader of the so-called ‘Lacoste’ faction – named after the clothes firm’s crocodile logo, which matches Mnangagwa’s reptilian nickname – within Mugabe’s party. The group enjoys strong support among military figures.

It is locked in a struggle with Grace’s G40 group.

With the events of today, the struggle between Grace and Mnangagwa to succeed 93-year-old Mugabe appears to be shifting in the Crocodile’s favour.

University of London-educated Mnangagwa has been close to Mugabe since the two were side-by-side in the struggle against racist white-minority rule in then-Rhodesia.

In 1983, Mnangagwa led a major crackdown in Matabeleland, in the southwest of Zimbabwe. Tens of thousands of people were killed. Pictured: Bodies found in Matabeleland after the massacre

In 1983, Mnangagwa led a major crackdown in Matabeleland, in the southwest of Zimbabwe. Tens of thousands of people were killed. Pictured: Bodies found in Matabeleland after the massacre

Mnangagwa was mentioned by, among others, the tycoon Roland Rowland at the time of the Gukurahundi massacres. Pictured: Mugabe (centre) and Mnangagwa (right) together 

Mnangagwa was mentioned by, among others, the tycoon Roland Rowland at the time of the Gukurahundi massacres. Pictured: Mugabe (centre) and Mnangagwa (right) together

Mnangagwa was sentenced to ten years in jail, being kept at Salisbury Prison, Grey Prison, Khami Prison and Harare Prison. While imprisoned in Salisbury (later renamed Harare), he became close to Mugabe and other nationalist leaders. Pictured: Mnangagwa with Mugabe and Josiah Tongogara, a guerrilla commander 

Mnangagwa was sentenced to ten years in jail, being kept at Salisbury Prison, Grey Prison, Khami Prison and Harare Prison. While imprisoned in Salisbury (later renamed Harare), he became close to Mugabe and other nationalist leaders. Pictured: Mnangagwa with Mugabe and Josiah Tongogara, a guerrilla commander

Not long after ZANU-PF, modern Zimbabwe’s ruling party, was formed in 1963 Mnangagwa was sent for military training in Communist China.

He earned his ‘Crocodile’ nickname when he returned to Zimbabwe and led a gang of fighters called the ‘Crocodile Group’ during the civil war.

The gang blew up several trains during their operations against the Rhodesian government and, as a consequence, Mnangagwa was arrested in 1965.

He confessed to revolutionary activity and was savagely tortured, but escaped the death penalty after successfully arguing that, because he was under 21, he should not be executed.

Instead, he was sentenced to ten years in jail, being kept at Salisbury Prison, Grey Prison, Khami Prison and Harare Prison.

Tens of thousands were killed in Gukurahundi atrocities

After Mugabe won the election of 1980 and became Zimbabwe’s first prime minister, there were fears a potential takeover of the country by the Ndebele ethnic minority may be afoot.

In 1983, Mnangagwa led a major crackdown in Matabeleland, in the southwest of Zimbabwe.

Matabeleland was the stronghold of Mugabe’s political rival, Joshua Nkomo. Mugabe blamed members of Nkomo’s party for a series of murders and attacks on property in the country.

During the operation between 1983 and 1987 – later known as the Gukurahundi (or ‘the early rain which washes away the before the spring rains’) – tens of thousands of civilians were killed.

The agreement between North Korea and Mugabe for the training of the Fifth Brigade was signed in October 1980, when the Zimbabwean prime minister met with Kim Il Sung. Pictured: The Fifth Brigade in 1982 at Independence Day celebrations in Salisbury. The banner overhead reads: 'Let Us Lay Down Our Lives for Cde. R.G. Mugahe'

The agreement between North Korea and Mugabe for the training of the Fifth Brigade was signed in October 1980, when the Zimbabwean prime minister met with Kim Il Sung. Pictured: The Fifth Brigade in 1982 at Independence Day celebrations in Salisbury. The banner overhead reads: ‘Let Us Lay Down Our Lives for Cde. R.G. Mugahe’

The North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade was responsible for the atrocities, which also included the torture and rape of tens of thousands in Matabeleland.

Showing that they had learned from their Communist teachers, the Fifth Brigade troops summarily detained and executed Ndebele men of fighting age, who were automatically deemed guilty of subversion.

Many were also marched to re-education camps, a popular tactic employed by Stalinist North Korea as well as Communist China.

The North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade (pictured training in 1984) was responsible for the atrocities, which also included the torture and rape of tens of thousands of in Matabeleland 

The North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade (pictured training in 1984) was responsible for the atrocities, which also included the torture and rape of tens of thousands of in Matabeleland

On one occasion, in March of 1983, the Fifth Brigade slaughtered 55 people – apparently at random – on the banks of the Cewale River.

The soldiers reportedly forced their victims to dig their own graves before being shot.

The agreement between North Korea and Mugabe for the training of the Fifth Brigade was signed in October 1980, when the Zimbabwean prime minister met with Kim Il Sung.

Over a hundred North Koreans arrived a year later to train the elite troops.

The agreement between North Korea and Mugabe for the training of the Fifth Brigade was signed in October 1980, when the Zimbabwean prime minister met with Kim Il Sung. Pictured: The two dictators meeting in 1993

The agreement between North Korea and Mugabe for the training of the Fifth Brigade was signed in October 1980, when the Zimbabwean prime minister met with Kim Il Sung. Pictured: The two dictators meeting in 1993

But by 1988, the reputation of the brigade – whose soldiers were identifiable by their distinctive red berets – was deemed so toxic that it was disbanded.

None of the perpetrators of the atrocities has ever been brought to justice, with those implicated including Mugabe and Mnangagwa.

Mnangagwa was mentioned by, among others, the tycoon Roland Rowland at the time of the massacres.

He wrote to the US ambassador that Mnangagwa, as security minister, was ‘fully aware’ of the slaughter going on in the country’s south.

While imprisoned in Salisbury (later renamed Harare), he became close to Mugabe and other nationalist leaders.

After being deported to Zambia, Mnangagwa studied law and – in the late 1970s – became a senior member of ZANU-PF.

When Zimbabwe became independent in 1980, Mnangagwa was named as Prime Minister Mugabe’s national security chief.

Seven years later, when Mugabe made himself president, Mnangagwa was made justice minister.

His loyalty to Mugabe was rewarded in 2000 when, having lost his seat in parliament, he was appointed to an unelected seat and made speaker of the lower house.

Zimbabweans sitting in front of Salibury prison in 1968 after the triple hanging of James Dhlamini, Victor Mlambo and Duly Shadrack, was ordered by Ian Smith's government - despite Queen Elizabeth II issuing a royal reprieve 

Zimbabweans sitting in front of Salibury prison in 1968 after the triple hanging of James Dhlamini, Victor Mlambo and Duly Shadrack, was ordered by Ian Smith’s government – despite Queen Elizabeth II issuing a royal reprieve

Mugabe had accused his former deputy of plotting to take power from him, while his ambitious wife Grace referred to him as a snake that 'must be hit on the head' after the two clashed. Pictured right: Mnangagwa with Mugabe in 2004

Mugabe had accused his former deputy of plotting to take power from him, while his ambitious wife Grace referred to him as a snake that ‘must be hit on the head’ after the two clashed. Pictured right: Mnangagwa with Mugabe in 2004

University of London-educated Mnangagwa has been close to Mugabe since the two were involved in the struggle against racist white-minority rule in then-Rhodesia. Pictured: Mnangagwa (right) being sworn in as vice president by Mugabe (left) in 2014

University of London-educated Mnangagwa has been close to Mugabe since the two were involved in the struggle against racist white-minority rule in then-Rhodesia. Pictured: Mnangagwa (right) being sworn in as vice president by Mugabe (left) in 2014

He earned his 'Crocodile' nickname when he returned to Zimbabwe and led a gang of fighters called the 'Crocodile Group' during the civil war. Pictured: Mnangagwa in 2016

He earned his ‘Crocodile’ nickname when he returned to Zimbabwe and led a gang of fighters called the ‘Crocodile Group’ during the civil war. Pictured: Mnangagwa in 2016

Mnangagwa repaid Mugabe for his support during the 2008 elections, with the Crocodile said to have steered the president to victory after Morgan Tsvangirai won the first round.

Hundreds of Tsvangirai’s supporters were killed in the political violence blamed on Mugabe’s regime, forcing Tsvangirai to step aside and giving Mugabe a clear run at the presidency.

Mnangagwa was then made defence minister and, in 2013, vice president.

He appeared to be on course to become the country’s next leader, but First Lady Grace Mugabe did not approve,

Last month she warned of a possible coup being orchestrated by Vice President Mnangagwa amid a heated power struggle.

She claimed his allies were threatening to kill people who did not support his bid to succeed Mugabe.

Grace recently told supporters: ‘In 1980 this person called Mnangagwa wanted to stage a coup. He wanted to wrestle power from the president.

‘He was conspiring with whites. That man is a ravisher.’

His loyalty to Mugabe was rewarded in 2000 when, having lost his seat in parliament, he was appointed to an unelected seat and made speaker of the lower house

His loyalty to Mugabe was rewarded in 2000 when, having lost his seat in parliament, h

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5081687/Tanks-Zimbabwe-head-military-warned-Mugabe.html#ixzz4yVa7I9vx
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The post After 37-year grip on power: How army ousted Robert Mugabe in bloodless coup appeared first on Tribune.

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