Zimbabwe govt denies “imminent coup” plot

Zimbabwe government's Home Affairs Minister Kazembe Kazembe and Military Generals

HARARE – Zimbabwe’s National Security Council (NSC) in a maiden news conference on Wednesday accused allies of the late former leader Robert Mugabe and some opposition officials of peddling rumours of an impending military coup and said the country was stable.

Zimbabwe’s worst economic crisis in more than a decade and rising public anger have stoked concern the military, which ended Mugabe’s more than three-decades rule in November 2017, might step in again.

Giving its first news conference since being formed in 2013, the NSC said speculation was intensifying that Mugabe allies living in exile were plotting a comeback with the help of elements in the military and the opposition.

The NSC is chaired by President Emmerson Mnangagwa and its members include security ministers and military chiefs, who were present at Wednesday’s media briefing.

“For the avoidance of doubt, there is no coup in the making,” Kazembe Kazembe, the home affairs minister in charge of the police and an NSC member, told reporters.

“We would like to take this opportunity and assure the nation and international community at large that Zimbabwe … is peaceful and stable internally.”

The 2018 elections were supposed to end Zimbabwe’s pariah status with the West, but Mnangagwa’s government has been accused of resorting to Mugabe-era tactics of heavy handedness against opponents.

The main opposition accuses the government of using a coronavirus lockdown to erode political rights.

Kazembe said the authorities would tackle those spreading a “medley of falsehoods”.

Without naming them, he accused some foreign embassies in Harare of misleading their capitals on affairs in Zimbabwe and relying on the opposition and former ruling party officials in their intelligence gathering.

“They also have, in the process, brazenly jettisoned any semblance of diplomatic impartiality and finesse in blatant violation of the peremptory norms of international law,” Kazembe said.

Economic collapse

Meanwhile, the embattled Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said on Wednesday that Zimbabwe’s currency was under attack from businesses that were constantly hiking prices and this was part of a wider political plot against his government.

A year after the southern African nation ended a decade of dollarisation and reintroduced the Zimbabwe dollar, the local currency has tumbled on the black market, fuelling price increases and pushing inflation to 765%.

When Mnangagwa took over from Robert Mugabe in 2017 after an army coup, he promised to revive the economy, but life has become harder as people grapple with acute shortages of foreign currency, medicines and food, and unemployment above 80%.

“We are witnessing a relentless attack on our currency and the economy in general through exorbitant pricing models by the private sector,” Mnangagwa told a meeting of his ruling ZANU-PF party’s politburo in Harare.

“We are fully cognisant that this is a battle being fuelled by our political detractors, elite opportunists and malcontents who are bent on pushing a nefarious agenda they will never win.”

Economic analysts say the government’s budget is under pressure from spending to combat the coronavirus outbreak, which will force authorities to resort to printing money, stoking inflation further.

Inflation is seen ending this year way above the central bank and treasury’s target of 50% due to a weak exchange rate and shortages of food following a drought.

Mnangagwa said reports last month of three opposition activists who were allegedly abducted and tortured by state security agents were part of coordinated plan to cause unrest.

The activists are receiving treatment in hospital and have been charged with taking part in an illegal protest and breaking coronavirus lockdown rules.

On Wednesday, United Nations human rights experts urged Zimbabwean authorities to “urgently prosecute and punish the perpetrators of this outrageous crime”.