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African press review 16 November 2017


The situation in Zimbabwe continues to make front-page news across the continent, even if no one seems too sure about what's really going on. Is this an army takeover, a display of political force or a burst of bloodletting? It's hard to see how 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe can emerge from house arrest and go on running the country he has ruled for nearly four decades.

Zimbabwe once again dominates the continental front pages but that doesn't mean the situation is getting any easier to understand.

BusinessDay in South Africa says Zimbabwe’s military seized power on Wednesday and is holding President Robert Mugabe and his family safe while targeting "criminals" in the entourage of the man who has ruled the nation since independence 37 years ago.

Mugabe spoke by telephone to Jacob Zuma yesterday, telling the South African president that he was confined to his home but was otherwise fine.

BusinessDay says it remains unclear whether the apparent military coup would end the 93-year-old Mugabe’s rule. The main goal of the generals appears to be preventing Mugabe’s wife Grace, 41 years his junior, from succeeding him.

How real is Zimbabwe's apparent calm?

Pictures of Zimbabwe Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo’s bullet-riddled house have emerged‚ showing that his arrest was no simple affair. BusinessDay has the photos and they do suggest that the man did not go quietly.

It is understood that Chombo was taken from his Borrowdale home at about 1.00am on Wednesday after the Zimbabwean army’s televised announcement that it was taking control of the country. There are unconfirmed reports that one of Chombo's bodyguards died in the exchange of fire.

Chombo is a close ally of Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe as one of the key strategists of the Generation 40 faction, who are said to have been manoeuvring to take over from Mugabe. It is not clear where the army is holding him.

Zuma’s special envoys to Zimbabwe arrived in Harare on Wednesday evening. The South African leader, acting in his capacity as chairman of the Southern African Development Community, dispatched Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and State Security Minister Bongani Bongo.

Zanu-PF youth leader tells the army he's sorry

In Zimbabwe itself, the top story in the Herald is an apology from Zanu-PF National Youth League Secretary Kudzanai Chipanga to the army.

On Tuesday Chipanga read a four-page statement denouncing the military takeover, accusing the army of flouting the constitution and promising a muscular response from the ruling party's youth wing.

This morning he's singing a different tune.

He was not the author of Tuesday's statement, he now claims. It was given to him to read to the press. Upon reflection, he realises that the reading of the document was ill-advised and he apologised to the various force leaders for denigrating "your high office and your person".

Further down the Herald front-page, we read that Zimbabweans went about their daily chores yesterday with shops, banks, transport operators and other service providers opening for business as usual with no reports of violence.

The Zimbabwe Defence Forces announced early yesterday morning that they had taken action to pacify the degenerating political, social and economic situation in the country which, if left unchecked, would have resulted in violent conflict.

Names of those arrested start to surface

Another Harare-based daily, NewsDay, reports that along with Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo, the Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo, party commissar Saviour Kasukuwere, Central Intelligence Organisation deputy director Albert Miles Ngulube and Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri were also arrested.

Meanwhile, regional paper the East African says former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa appears well-placed to return to a leading role in Zimbabwe following the army's takeover in response to his sacking by President Robert Mugabe.

Nicknamed "the Crocodile" because of his fearsome power and ruthlessness, the 75-year-old has a reputation for taking no prisoners.

He appeared to have been outfoxed by Grace Mugabe after she convinced the veteran head of state to ditch his long-serving deputy.

But, following the army's dramatic seizure of power and reports that he has left South Africa where he has been since his dismissal, Mnangagwa could be preparing to return to Zimbabwe and assume a leadership role.