Zimbabwe: Mysteries remain about Mugabe’s downfall

 In U.S.

Mr Mugabe, 93, in cap and gown, as he presides over a graduation ceremony this weekImage copyright
Getty Images

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Why hasn’t Robert Mugabe been seen in days, and where is his wife?

The fall of Robert Mugabe, who was a fixture in global affairs for nearly four decades, was sudden, swift and bloodless.

A little more than a week after the military warned the government it might step in, a new president is already in the making.

Now, his former political party and the military are claiming it is “business as usual”.

But there is still much we don’t know.

Did the ‘coup’ happen to protect the military chief?

The military intervened following the sacking of vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, which was widely seen as clearing the way for Mr Mugabe’s wife to succeed him.

But there may also have been another element at play.

The first hint of trouble came a few days earlier, when military chief Gen Constantine Chiwenga issued a warning to Mr Mugabe over “the current purging” in the ruling Zanu-PF party. He felt former liberation fighters – like Mr Mnangagwa – were being targeted.

Gen Chiwenga was on a trip to China for military meetings when, according to reports in a number of news outlets, plans were made to arrest him upon his return.

Image copyright
EPA

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Gen Chiwenga reportedly escaped capture himself before the military response

But the general reportedly learned of the plot, and was met at the airport on his return by a significant number of his own troops to ensure his protection.

And then the military placed Mr Mugabe under house arrest.

The military are being widely praised for their intervention – but it may also have been protecting its own interests.

Where is Robert Mugabe?

Mr Mugabe has been conspicuously absent since Sunday.

The 93-year-old former former president was placed under house arrest on 14 November.

Since then, Mr Mugabe has been kept under guard at his “blue roof” mansion, a luxury home on secluded grounds on the capital’s outskirts.

On 17 November, under military guard, he presided over a university graduation ceremony. Two days later, he appeared in a live television address to read a prepared statement.

But he has not been seen since – even his resignation was announced by post.

What happened at the ‘baffling’ televised address?

Sunday’s speech was described by one BBC correspondent as “a baffling 20 minutes”.

After days in which it was clear the military was in charge, Mr Mugabe’s major televised address was widely expected to be about his resignation.

Instead, Mr Mugabe gave a dull speech, which said very little about the mass calls for his departure – and then declared he was looking forward to managing the party conference a few weeks later.

The party had already disowned him.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Media captionRobert Mugabe: “The congress is due… I will preside over its processes”

One BBC presenter observed “some very odd shuffling of papers going on and generals watching him closely” during the unusual address.

Once it was over, questions started emerging: did he read the wrong speech? Online sleuths poring over the video footage claimed that just before Mr Mugabe began, a collection of papers being passed along were dropped under a chair.

Even the head of the powerful war veterans group, Chris Mutsvangwa, said Mr Mugabe “appeared to swap the agreed speech”.

It has also been suggested that he did not want to resign live, on international television, flanked by the military.

Why did he then suddenly resign?

After apparently claiming he would continue in the role – defying all expectations – the president then vanished once again. The military said it had agreed a “roadmap” for the future with Mr Mugabe – but would not say what it was.

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