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The 7 Facts: How Mugabe Lost his Grip on Power

Harare - While the army generals say they aren’t staging a coup or targeting the 93-year-old president, it’s clear they are calling the sho...

Harare - While the army generals say they aren’t staging a coup or targeting the 93-year-old president, it’s clear they are calling the shots for now in the impoverished southern African nation.

1. What sparked the crisis?
It’s all about who will succeed Mugabe. The catalyst was the president’s decision last week to fire his long-time ally Emmerson Mnangagwa as vice president. 

Mnangagwa was a pillar of the military and security apparatus that helped Mugabe emerge as the nation’s leader after independence from the U.K. in 1980. 

Initially, his dismissal suggested that Mugabe’s wife Grace and her supporters had gained the upper hand in the battle for control of the ruling party and the race to succeed the president. Yet the unopposed intervention of the armed forces shows where the true power lies.

2. So was this a coup?
It’s not clear. The armed forces were quick to say they weren’t targeting Mugabe or his family and their actions were directed against “criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice.” 
Robert Mugabe and Wife Grace

They’ve pledged to return Zimbabwe to normalcy after accomplishing their mission and to allow lawmakers to serve their constituencies “according to democratic tenants.” South African President Jacob Zuma said he’d spoken to Mugabe, who told him that he was fine and had been confined to his home.

3. Could Mugabe stay on as president?
It’s possible he will be allowed to remain in office while reconfiguring his administration to accommodate the military. 

In any event, Mugabe’s political career is drawing to a close — he appears increasingly frail and was considered unlikely to be able to serve out another five-year term even though the ruling party had nominated him as its presidential candidate in elections that are scheduled for next year.

4. What’s the situation like on the ground?
The military has seized control of the state broadcaster, sealed off parliament and surrounded the central bank. 

While several armored vehicles were stationed in the center of Harare, the capital, there was no sign of upheaval, most shops and banks remain open and the airport and stock exchange were operating as normal. The University of Zimbabwe postponed examinations and foreign embassies warned their citizens to remain at home and exercise caution.

5. Who are Zimbabwe’s new power brokers?
The key players within the military are: Constantine Chiwenga, who’s led the armed forces since 2004; Lieutenant-General Valerio Sibanda who commands the army; and Air Marshall Perence Shiri, who oversees the air force. 

Mnangagwa, 75, a veteran of the country’s war of independence and top ruling party securocrat, is set to play a leading political role and could possibly end up becoming the next president. He’s previously headed both the intelligence and defense ministries, as well as the ministry of justice. Mugabe appointed him vice president in 2014.

6. What’s likely to happen to Grace Mugabe?
Her political career is probably over. Mugabe wed Grace, his former secretary, in 1996 after the death of his first wife. Nicknamed “Gucci Grace” in Zimbabwe for her extravagant lifestyle, she used her position as first lady to kick-start a political career and was elected head of the ruling party’s women’s league. 

Her presidential ambitions were backed by members of a ruling party faction known as the G-40, who are now also likely to be sidelined.

7. What does this mean for the economy?
Zimbabwe’s economy is in tatters. Any new or reconfigured administration will face an uphill battle to get it back on track. The nation has no currency of its own, using mainly the dollar as legal tender, and there are chronic shortages of cash. 

An estimated 95 percent of the workforce is jobless and as many as 3 million Zimbabweans have gone into exile. The markets reacted negatively to the military intervention, with the nation’s benchmark stock index dropping the most in two months. 

British American Tobacco, cement-market PPC and clothing retailer Edgars Stores were among the shares that lost ground. Cryptocurrency bitcoin climbed as much as 10 percent on Zimbabwe’s Golix exchange to as high as $13,499 — almost double the rate at which it trades in international markets. - Bloomberg

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