Allies of Zimbabwean president warns coup plotters

Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa (C) inspects the guard of honour from a car during the Defence Forces Day celebrations held at the National Sports Stadium in Harare on August 14, 2018. / AFP PHOTO / Jekesai NJIKIZANA

HARARE – One of President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s top allies has warned that they would “respond in kind” after a website linked to Zimbabwe’s Military Intelligence reported that army chiefs were ready to force the Zanu PF leader out of power.

The Spotlight Zimbabwe website, which correctly predicted former president Robert Mugabe’s ouster in a military coup in 2017, reported Friday that “combative Vice President Rtd General Constantino Chiwenga, and a hardline military faction backing his political doctrine and ambitions, are reportedly on the verge of booting President Mnangagwa out of office at any moment now, through another subtle military intervention.”

Mnangagwa’s ouster would be carried out under a military operation code-named “Operation Restore Economy”, the website reported, citing “Military Intelligence sources and long-time serving former cabinet ministers.”

“Mnangagwa is keen to save face and resign to avoid humiliation, but a Zanu PF faction supporting his presidency is resisting the move,” the website reported.

Terence Mukupe, who previously served as Zimbabwe’s deputy Finance Minister and is of Mnangagwa’s top political allies, took to Twitter on Friday to warn against the plot.

“You can’t employ the same strategy twice. Good luck to you daydreamers. We will respond in kind,” Mukupe tweeted, apparently referring to the 2017 coup which ironically catapulted Mnangagwa into power.

Mukupe, in the tweet, attached a short video of Major General Sibusiso Moyo speaking in a Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) broadcast when he announced the army’s intervention on November 15, 2017, in which he said: “The situation in our country has moved to another level.”

Moyo, now Foreign Minister, is one of several leaders being considered as Mnangagwa’s successors, according to Spotlight Zimbabwe. Others include former Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono, exiled former Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, former Defence Minister Sydney Sekeramayi and the current defence Minister Oppah Muchinguri, whose chances are however described as “remote”.

“However, the army is believed to prefer an arrangement where Chiwenga takes over the presidency on a transitional basis until 2023, when fresh presidential and parliamentary elections are due,” the website reported.

The military, it is claimed, would force Mnangagwa out through any one of three ways: “The first is a recall by the party (Zanu PF), allowing Chiwenga to replace him in the fashion and manner the ANC dealt with Jacob Zuma in February 2018; an impeachment parliamentary process over the deteriorating economy; or call for his arraignment in the killing of innocent protesters in August 2018 and early this year.”

Mukupe’s comments on Twitter betray growing concern within Mnangagwa’s camp that the plot may actually be much more advanced than previously thought. His choice of the coup video to make his point will also raise fresh questions about the state of Mnangagwa’s relationship with the “military faction” within Zanu PF.