Africa: World Reaction to Zimbabwe Coup

President Robert Mugabe and First Lady Grace Mugabe cartoon.
16 November 2017

Global reaction to the military takeover of power in Zimbabwe fell short of outright condemnation of what was widely seen as a coup with regional and international groups urging calm, non-violence and respect for the constitution.

The Zimbabwean military announced a takeover of power Wednesday morning but insisted that long-time ruler Robert Mugabe remained president and commander in chief of the defence forces.

"We are only targeting criminals around him (Mugabe) who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice," Major General SB Moyo, Chief of Staff Logistics, said on television.

"As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy."

The military then swamped deployed across Harare Wednesday maintaining a heavy presence at most key government institutions across the city amid reports that some cabinet ministers had been arrested.

The military has taken particular care to insist that they had not staged a coup.

"The military hasn't declared martial law, they haven't suspended the constitution and they claim that they have surrounded President Robert Mugabe for his own protection, not to overthrow him so in that sense what is happening doesn't fit the exact definition of a coup," Derek Matyszak, a senior researcher at the Institute for Security Studies (ISS) in Zimbabwe told ANA news agency.

"The military will argue that the actions they are taking constitute security measures, they are merely arresting counter-revolutionary elements and once this is complete, they will go back to their barracks and hand control back to the government. The military vehicles outside parliament are probably just a show of strength."

South African President Jacob Zuma confirmed that he had been in touch with Mugabe who indicated that he was safe but confirmed to his private home in the capital.

Countries such as Namibia and Zambia expressed concern over the situation with the regional SADC grouping due to hold an emergency meeting over the crisis in Botswana on Thursday.

Below is a selection of the global reaction to developments in Harare.

UN chief calls for calm, restraint

The United Nations says Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is appealing for "calm, nonviolence and restraint" in Zimbabwe.

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters Guterres stressed "the importance of resolving political differences through peaceful means and dialogue, and in line with the country's constitution."

Haq wouldn't speculate on what's going to happen in Zimbabwe, saying "at this stage there's a bit of confusion on the ground."

Haq added, "We are aware that our colleagues in Harare have been able to go about their work."

AU calls for democratic resolution to Zimbabwe political crisis

The African Union Commission said on Wednesday it was crucial that the political crisis in Zimbabwe be resolved in a manner that promotes democracy and human rights, after the army seized power from President Robert Mugabe.

The commission was closely following developments in Harare, Chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said in a statement.

France calls for peaceful solution after military seizes power

France said it was closely following events in Zimbabwe and stressed respect for constitutional law after the southern African country's military seized power early on Wednesday.

"We reiterate our attachment to constitutional law and respect of the legitimate aspirations of the Zimbabwean people," French foreign ministry spokeswoman, Agnes Romatet-Espagne said during a daily media briefing.

"We encourage all parties to find a peaceful solution within this framework and without violence."

It is not clear whether the apparent military coup will bring a formal end to President Robert Mugabe's rule. Zimbabwe's military said the 93-year-old leader and his family were safe.

Britain does not want to see another tyrant in power in Zimbabwe

Britain does not want to see one tyrant take over from another in Zimbabwe after the military seized power in Harare, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said on Wednesday.

"Nobody wants simply to see the transition from one unelected tyrant to a next. Noone wants to see that. We want to see proper, free and fair elections," Johnson told the British parliament.

Nigeria warns Zimbabwe's military to respect constitution

President Muhammadu Buhari has appealed for calm and respect for the constitution in neighbouring African country, Zimbabwe, after what appears to be an ongoing military takeover of President Robert Mugabe's government.

In a press statement, the president said the military should tread carefully so as to prevent unnecessary conflict.

"Every attempt must be made to resolve all contentious issues by constitutional means in Zimbabwe to save the country from avoidable political instability."

Namibia worried about Zimbabwe

Namibia's international relations minister has expressed concern about political developments in Zimbabwe.

Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah said they have been following the unfolding developments in Zimbabwe with concern, and associate itself with the statement issued on behalf of SADC.

"As neighbours, member states of SADC and AU, Namibia and Zimbabwe share a common destiny and common aspirations for peace, economic prosperity and democracy for our countries and people.

"Namibia is concerned that the present situation in Zimbabwe creates uncertainty that is not conducive to peace, stability and consolidation of democracy in Zimbabwe and the region as a whole," Nandi-Ndaitwah said amidst reports that Zimbabwe's first lady Grace Mugabe has fled to the country.

The Namibian government said the Zimbabwe Defence Force has assured the Zimbabwe public and the international community at large that they have not overthrown the government of president Robert Mugabe and that they have no intention to take over the governance of the country.

"Namibia further notes that the situation in the country remains relatively calm. It is the expectation of the government of Namibia that democratic institutions in Zimbabwe will continue to carry out their constitutional functions.

"Namibia urges all the parties concerned to scrupulously adhere to the relevant provisions of the SADC Treaty on Governance and the African Union Constitutive Act," Nandi-Ndaitwah said.

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