Early on Wednesday, reports emerged that Zimbabwe’s military seized power, stating that it was targeting “criminals” around President Robert Mugabe – the only ruler the country has known in its 37 years of independence. The reports came after witnesses disclosed seeing tanks heading to the capital, Harare, on Tuesday 14 November.
On Wednesday, soldiers seized the state broadcaster, ZBC, and ordered staff to leave after the ruling ZANU-PF party accused the head of the military of treason, prompting speculation of a coup. Shortly afterwards, three explosions rocked the centre of the capital city. The incidents came just 24 hours after military chief General Constantion Chiwenga threatened to intervene to end a purge of his allies in ZANU-PF, with witnesses reporting seeing armoured personnel carriers on main roads around the capital, Harare. Armoured vehicles blocked roads to the main government offices, parliament and the courts in central Harare, while taxis ferried commuters to work nearby. The atmosphere in the capital city however remained calm. According to a government source, Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo, a leading member of the ruling ZANU-PF party’s ‘G40’ faction, which is led by the president’s wife Grace Mugabe, had been detained by the military. The military has also disclosed that President Mugabe and his family were safe. A statement released by the South African presidency disclosed that President Mugabe himself spoke by telephone to the president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, and told him he was confined to his home but was fine. President Zuma, speaking on the behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), further expressed hope that there would be no constitutional changes of government in Zimbabwe as that would be contrary to both SADC and African Union (AU) positions. He urged Zimbabwe’s government and the military “to resolve the political impasse amicably.”
Both the United States and Britain have advised their citizens currently in Harare to remain indoors because of “political uncertainty.”
The coup comes after President Mugabe plunged Zimbabwe into a new political crisis earlier this month by dismissing his vice president and presumed successor Emmerson Mnangagwa. The generals that launched the coup believed that the move was aimed at clearing a path for Grace Mugabe to take over and announced on Monday 13 November that they were prepared to “step in” if purges of their allies did not end. On Television, Major General SB Moyo, Chief of Staff Logistics, has since stated “we are only targeting criminals around him (President Mugabe) who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice,” adding “as soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.”
It currently remains unclear whether the apparent military coup will bring a formal end to President Mugabe’s rule, with the main goal of the generals appearing to be preventing the president’s 52-year-old wife Grace from succeeding him. What is clear is that whether he remains in office or not, the coup attempt is likely to end the total dominance of the country by President Mugabe.
While being once one of the continent’s most prosperous countries, Zimbabwe has been reduced to poverty by an economic crisis that many of the president’s opponents have long blamed on him. Furthermore, even many of President Mugabe’s loyal supporters over the decades had come to oppose the rise of his wife, who courted the powerful youth wing of the ruling party while alienating the military, which was led by President Mugabe’s former guerrilla comrades from the 1970s independence struggle.
Key figures in Zimbabwe
Below is a list of key figures in First Lady Grace Mugabe’s ‘G40’ political faction – the target of an overnight coup by the military. While the whereabouts of all of them are currently unknown, sources in Harare have reported that some are in detention.
- Grace Mugabe – President Robert Mugabe’s 52-year-old wife rose from political obscurity to the top ranks of the ruling ZANU-PF party and, after a purge earlier this month of Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, became the front-runner to succeed her husband.
- Jonathan Moyo – A propagandist and former information ministry, Moyo was G40’s brains and mouthpiece, never shying away from an acerbic comment or Tweet about his rivals. Since the coup however, his Twitter feed has been uncharacteristically silent.
- Saviour Kasukuwere – A former ZANU-PF Youth Minister who ran President Mugabe’s attempts to “indigenise” the economy, essentially forcing foreign investors to surrender large stakes in their businesses to locals.
- Ignatius Chombo – A former University lecturer and President Mugabe’s close fiend, Chombo was promoted last month in a cabinet reshuffle from the interior ministry to the finance portfolio, just as a severe domestic currency shortage tipped over into full-blown financial collapse.
- Agustine Chihuri – As Commissioner General of the police, Chihuri was accused by rights groups of presiding over vicious crackdowns on dissent and popular protest in the last eighteen months.
- Kudzai Chipanga – The 35-year-old youth leader ingratiated himself to President Mugabe and Grace and organized nationwide youth rallies that Grace Mugabe used to attack Mnangagwa and his allies.
Since the independence forces obtained an absolute majority in seats in September 2015, but not in votes, in the Parliament of Catalonia, they cling to a unilateral agenda to proclaim independence from Spain, which was answered by the institutions of the State and has led to the current situation.
The culmination of the independence project began last September when the Catalan Parliament approved, against the warnings of the Constitutional Court, which declared an independence referendum unconstitutional, as well as any law that would serve to hold it, the Referendum Law, which authorized the Government of Catalonia to convene a referendum of independence, and the Law of Legal Transience, which would replace the Spanish legality in case the “yes” to independence won.
After the beginning of the coup d’état orchestrated by the Generalitat, which established the 1st October as the date for the referendum, the Superior Court of Justice of Catalonia pose to prevent the consummation of the vote, for which it ordered the Civil Guard (GC), the National Police Force (CNP) and the Catalan autonomous police (the Mossos), requisition any material related to the vote, as well as propaganda material on the referendum and prevent political acts. Then begins a scuffle between the Government of Spain and the Generalitat in which websites are blocked, many voting materials are requisitioned, and at the same time the Generalitat disregards any order extended from the Government or from the Justice, the Government of Spain having to take full control of the Autonomous Community’s finances to avoid the use of public money to finance the referendum, and having to displace more than 10,000 agents of the GC and CNP from other regions of Spain to Catalonia, due to the disobedience and inactivity of the Mossos to avoid it.
The events of 1st October could be summarized as a chaotic day in which the Generalitat approved the universal census that allowed any citizen to vote anywhere there was a ballot box, which led to embarrassing situations such as the same person voting up to four times, minors exercising the vote, or people from other regions of Spain being able to vote if they were in Catalonia. Given the total ineffectiveness of the Mossos, who disobeyed the Justice order to stop holding the referendum, the GC and the CNP had to take over their functions and prevent, sometimes using force because of the resistance of the protesters, the voting in certain electoral points. The Generalitat made use of this violence as propaganda, accusing the Government of Spain of violating the rights of citizens and exaggerating the number of wounded during police charges. Without having finished the vote count, the Catalan authorities announced that 2,286,217 people had voted, of which 90 percent had voted in favour of independence, which legitimized the Generalitat to implement the Law of Legal Transience and proclaim independence in 48 hours. The electoral day was characterised by a total lack of democratic rigour, with people voting several times, ballot boxes arriving at polling stations filled with ballots, and with a result that reached up to 100.88 percent of votes.
The president of the Generalitat, Carles Puigdemont, declared a few days later before the Catalan Parliament that he assumed “the mandate that the people of Catalonia become an independent State in the form of a republic” for eight seconds after proposing “that Parliament suspend the effects of the declaration of independence so that in the next weeks we can start a dialogue ». A dialogue that became a demand to the Government of Spain to mutually agree on the terms of independence or a new agreed referendum, something that led the Central Government to activate Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution to dismiss the Catalan Government, dissolve the rebel regional Parliament, and call for regional elections on 21st December to restore the rule of law in Catalonia. When the pro-independence leaders saw no way out, one day before article 155 was applied, they voted the Unilateral Declaration of Independence (DUI).
One day after the DUI, the former president of the Generalitat, who does not accept his dismissal by the Spanish authorities, moved with five ex-ministers of his Government to Brussels, with the intention of internationalizing the conflict. Members of the former Catalan government that remained in Spain were sent to prison in a preventive manner due to the risk of absconding and they will be accused of rebellion, insurrection and economic malfeasance. Similar charges will be filed against the president of the Catalan Parliament, Carme Forcadell, and other members of the Bureau that allowed the vote of the DUI, which remain on probation. Given the refusal of the former president of the Generalitat to return to Spain to testify for the same crimes, the Spanish justice has issued an international arrest warrant against the former president and ex-ministers who seek refuge in Brussels, where they intend to slow down their extradition as long as possible.
Meanwhile, nearly 2,000 companies have left Catalonia due to the political instability, it is rumoured that Barcelona has ceased to be the preferred city to relocate the headquarters of the European Medicines Agency, which moves from London because of Brexit, the Mobile World Congress has threatened to change Barcelona as its headquarters by 2019 if Catalonia does not recover stability, and it is estimated that the Catalan crisis will cost the Spanish economy between 2,000 and 12,000 million euros.
Spain has received the support of the entire international community and the media, while the independence movement has failed in its attempt to internationalize the conflict and gather support. But the reasons that years ago led to a rise in the nationalist sentiment are still present in Catalan society, and it is the duty of both parts, the Central Government and the coming Generalitat, to repair the damage done and meet Catalan needs within the rule of law, respecting the Constitution and the unity of Spain.
Last month, Kenya’s election board announced that the country’s presidential re-run has been rescheduled for 26 October, after initially stating that it would be held on 17 October.
While the election board had initially disclosed that the re-run would take place on 17 October, a French firm whose technology is being used for the polls announced earlier this month that it would not be ready in time for that date.
The announcement came a day after a detailed Supreme Court judgement laid out the reasons why the court had nullified last month’s election.
Japan has set a snap election date, announcing that the polls will be held on 22 October, as Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seeks to gain on momentum of voter support standing in the wake of rising tensions with North Korea. However a fledgling party, led by popular Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike, gained momentum late last month, as the biggest opposition Democratic Party stated that it would step aside to let its candidate run under her conservative, reformist banner.
After the Cabinet formally set the date of the election, Prime Minister Abe told reporters, “I decided to call this election because we must overcome the national crisis of the threat from North Korea and an ageing population by obtaining a mandate for the people.” However some opposition lawmakers boycotted the dissolution session, in protest against the prime minister’s election decision, which could bring about a political vacuum at a time of high tensions with North Korea over its missile and nuclear arms programmes.
Prime Minister Abe, a conservative who returned to power in 2012, is hoping that a recent boost in voter support will help his Liberal Democratic Party – led (LDP) coalition maintain a simple majority. It currently holds a two-thirds “super” a majority. However Koike’s new Party of Hope, which was only formally launched on Wednesday 27 September, has upended the outlook for the lection after the former LDP member announced that she would lead it herself. Speaking at news conference, Koike disclosed, “I’m someone who is always s ready to take action.” Koike further stated that she would not run for a seat herself, although speculation persists that she will. He name has often been floated to be Japan’s first female prime minister.
Democratic Party executives have disclosed that they would not run candidates of their own and would let members run under the Party of Hope banner. The party has struggled to overcome rock-bottom ratings, defections and an image that was tainted by its rocky stint in power from 2009 until 2012.
A survey by the Mainichi newspaper showed that 18 percent of voters plan to vote for Koike’s party, compared to 29 percent for the prime minister’s ruling LDP. Meanwhile an Asahi newspaper poll showed 13 percent planned to vote for her party, versus 32 percent for the LDP. Both surveys asked voters their preference for proportional representation districts where ballots are cast for parties, rather than candidates.
In recent months, the prime minister’s personal ratings have risen to about 50 percent from about 30 percent in July, partly on the back of his leadership during the current North Korea crisis. However opposition parties say that he called the election to escape questioning in parliament about suspected cronyism scandals that had cut into his support.
South Korea last month indicated that it expects more provocative acts by North Korea this month, noting that they are likely to coincide with the anniversary of the founding of the North Korean communist party and China’s all-important Communist Party Congress.
During a meeting with President Moon Jae-in late last month, national security adviser Chung Eui-yong disclosed that he expected Pyongyang to act around October 10 and 18, however he provided no further details. Park Wan-ju, a lawmaker and head spokesman of the ruling Democratic Party, disclosed that the South Korean security adviser’s report also pointed to the risk that a military conflict could be sparked by “accidental incidents.” He added that “the president said the United States speaks of military and diplomatic options, but South Korea can’t go through war again.” He also sated that President Moon told the meeting that Washington and Seoul agreed that pressure needed to be applied to North Korea, with the door to talks still open. Asked if China had a plan to respond to an emergency in North Korea, such as securing nuclear and missile sites, Chinese defense ministry spokesman Wu Qian disclosed, “military means cannot become an option,” as he urged talks to resolve the issue. He added, “the Chinese military will make all necessary preparations to protect the country’s sovereignty and security and regional peace and stability,” without elaborating.
Meanwhile in a separate speech late last month, South Korean president Moon stated that cooperation with the international community to curb the North’s nuclear ambitions was at its highest ever. He further called for the strengthening of South Korea-US defences to rein in the North. South Korean lawmakers have also disclosed that national security adviser Chung had told them that the US and South Korea had agreed on the rotational deployment of US strategic assets to South Korea, possibly as soon as year-end. The nature of the assets however was not specified. The lawmakers further disclosed that President Moon added that it was inappropriate to discuss the deployment of nuclear weapons in South Korea. Moon stated that he had opposed the deployment of US Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea, but rapid improvement in North Korea’s missile capabilities prompted the decision. China opposes the deployment of THAAD because it believes that its powerful radar could be used to look inside its territory. South Korea and the US have stated that it is only to curb North Korea’s missile threats.
China has vowed to uphold UN sanctions against North Korea, besides seeking to get stalled talks restarted with Pyongyang. Late last month, China’s commerce ministry disclosed that North Korean firms or joint ventures in China would be close within 120 days of the latest United Nations Security Council sanctions, which were passed on 12 September. The ministry further disclosed in a statement on its website that overseas, Chinese joint ventures with North Korean entities or individuals will also be closed. The statement however did not provide a timeframe. The ministry had issued similar rules after a previous set of UN sanctions in August. Expulsion of North Korean diplomats has been amongst the measures that countries have taken against the reclusive state since its latest nuclear test. Malaysia has banned citizens from travelling to North Korea, citing the escalating tension on the Korean peninsula.
In recent weeks, tension on the Korean peninsula has risen as North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un and US President Donald Trump exchanged war-like threats and insults over the North’s nuclear and missile development programme. The North has accused President Trump of declaring war after the US leader warned that Kim’s regime would not last if he persisted in threatening the United States and its allies, having earlier warned North Korea would be totally destroyed in such an event. Pyongyang conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test on 3 September and has launched dozens of missiles this year as it accelerates a programme aimed at eventually targeting the United States with a nuclear-tipped missile. The United States and South Korea are technically still at war with North Korea as the 1950 – 1953 Korean conflict ended with a truce and not a peace treaty.