Seth Connell reports that in the impoverished African nation of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe has ruled with an iron fist to secure his own position of power at the expense of the people. Since 1980, when Zimbabwe completely separated from the United Kingdom, the man that seized power and ruled as dictator has run the country into the ground.
Until today, that is.
Mugabe has reportedly been ousted in a military coup, and is now under house arrest according to the BBC.
South African President Jacob Zuma spoke to Mugabe in a phone call, and Mugabe said that he is not harmed in any way. He is under house arrest in the capital city of Harare.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwean military is out patrolling the streets, looking for “criminals.” That is, they are looking for collaborators who worked in Mugabe’s regime in carrying out his regime’s oppression.
The move may be a bid to replace Mr Mugabe with his sacked deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, BBC correspondents say.
Mr Mnangagwa’s dismissal last week left Mr Mugabe’s wife Grace as the president’s likely successor.
Heavy gun and artillery fire could be heard in northern parts of Harare early on Wednesday.
Mr Mugabe, 93, has dominated the impoverished country’s political scene since it gained independence from the UK in 1980.
Recall that back in 2009, Zimbabwe circulated a one-hundred trillion dollar currency note as the country dealt with hyper-inflation. The note was effectively worthless on the world market.
However, the note actually gained value in the years since then, as it has become a kind of collector’s item. One can find the hundred-trillion dollar notes online for anywhere between $81 and $257 U.S. dollars.
That aside, it shows just how impoverished the south African nation truly is. The currency is basically worthless, and the military apparently had enough of Mugabe’s decades of dictatorship that was severely harming the people.
“We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes… that are causing social and economic suffering in the country,” Major General Sibusiso Moyo said, reading out a statement on video. “As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.”
At this point, it is not clear exactly who is leading the coup. But Moyo encouraged all security forces to cooperate with the ongoing operation “for the good” of the entire country, and that if there was resistance it would “be met with an appropriate response.”
Residents of the capital city heard the news and were delighted.
“I want to thank the general for removing this tyrant,” said one man. “He was ruling the country as if it belonged to his family.”
One woman told the BBC, “We are going to have a good life, we are looking forward to Christmas, because of what has happened.”
The future for the nation remains unclear at this time. The coup was not the result of a massive popular uprising such as we see in Venezuela right now, or in old Soviet bloc nations towards the end of the Cold War, but rather it was an internal power struggle between competing factions in the ruling party, the Zanu-PF.
Mr Mugabe’s mistake, at 93, was to assume he was still powerful enough to build a dynasty to back his wife, Grace, to succeed him.
Instead, his once loyal deputy, Emerson Mnangagwa, may be poised to take control. If so, many foreign governments are likely to give him the benefit of the doubt and hope he can rescue Zimbabwe from years of misrule.
Mugabe has been rather cozy with other dictators, including North Korea, and maintained Soviet-armed troops in his military. The regime’s Fifth Brigade was trained by North Korea, and has killed scores of innocent civilians to maintain Mugabe’s position of power.
Needless to say, he won’t be missed. The question is what comes next for the poverty-stricken nation.