Balance of Power: Curtain Draws on Mugabe Era With Zimbabwe in Ruins

Magaisa Says Mugabe Will Be Treated Humanely

Robert Mugabe’s four-decade grip on Zimbabwe is nearing its end, at the hands of the same soldiers who hoisted him to power after the war against the white-minority regime of Rhodesia.  

The military takeover carried out early today is a coup in all but name — parliament is closed, soldiers are in the streets and the army says Mugabe’s safety is “guaranteed,” under house arrest. 

Mugabe, 93, sealed his fate by firing his deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former spy chief who helped him take power in 1980 and keep it. For armed forces commander Constantine Chiwenga, the president and his 52-year-old wife, Grace — who’s commonly known as “Gucci Grace” for her extravagant lifestyle — had gone too far.

After he announced the military would stop “those bent on hijacking the revolution,” the ruling party called Chiwenga’s comments “treasonable” and the die was cast. Hours later armored vehicles appeared on the streets of the capital.

Indications now are that Mugabe is trying to negotiate a graceful way out, while the military says it’s rounding up the “criminals around him.” His administration is a shell of its former self — like the country he led to ruin. 

Mugabe, first prime minister of independent Zimbabwe, speaking at a press conference in March 1980.
Photographer: Keystone/Hulton Archive

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— With assistance by Daniel Ten Kate

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