THE African Union (AU) has said last month's leadership transition in Zimbabwe was not a military coup, adding that there were therefore no grounds for the continental body to place Harare under sanctions.
AU commissioner for peace and security Smail Chergui told Russian publication Sputnik this Wednesday that the Ethiopia-based organisation would not be taking any action against President Emmerson Mnangagwa's government.
"It's not a coup according to African Union rules, because we are the one to declare if someone has made a coup and then apply sanctions... We are neither in a crisis in Zimbabwe nor in extraordinary situation," the Algerian diplomat is quoted as saying.
The AU proscribes unconstitutional changes of government including through military coups. Its peace and security council often uses sanctions to oppose such transgressions in member states.
Last month the Zimbabwean military dramatically swooped onto the streets in a political intervention that culminated in the resignation of then President Robert Mugabe and his replacement by former deputy Mnangagwa.
Military generals insisted at the time that they were not staging a coup but merely rounding up "criminals" taking advantage of the aged Mugabe (he is 93 this year) to cause mayhem in the country which has struggled with a crippling economic crisis for nearly two decades.
However, losers of that bitterly fought Zanu PF succession war condemned the power transfer as a coup and dismissed Mnangagwa's new government as illegitimate.
Leading the charge was claimed G40 brain trust and then higher education minister Prof Jonathan Moyo who urged the AU and the regional SADC grouping to intervene.
Opposition politicians also expressed reservations over the manner of Mnangagwa's succession despite attending his inauguration at a packed National Sports Stadium. The event was also attended by several regional leaders.
Even so, AU diplomat Chergui said there was no bloodshed in Harare, adding that Mugabe had also been allowed to step down with "honour".
During the coup week, Mugabe was seen in pictures smiling while meeting with the Generals who had reportedly placed him under house arrest.
He also met envoys dispatched by South African counterpart Jacob Zuma and even officiated at a university graduation ceremony.
The veteran Zanu PF leader insisted that his authority was never under threat.
Said AU's Chergui; "We didn't lose a single life in this process, totally peaceful and at the end, even the [former] president left with honour.
"It was just a dialogue between the leadership of the country and the president and they convinced him that maybe some of the actions taken, including around him and his immediate surrounding, were not good for the country, and he accepted to submit his resignation willingly."
However, ambassador Chergui remarks appear to represent a shift from the initial condemnation of the events in Harare by AU chairman and Guinea's president Alpha Conde.
Speaking in Paris on November 16, President Conde told French journalists that the AU would never accept the military coup d'etat" in Zimbabwe.
"We demand respect for the constitution, a return to the constitutional order and we will never accept the military coup d'etat.
"We know there are internal problems. They need to be resolved politically by the Zanu-PF party and not with an intervention by the army," he said.
10/10 Given what has happened since the coup d'etat of 15 November 2017, the only way forward is for #Sadc, #AU & #UN to #CuretheCoup by restoring constitutional legitimacy through a civilian national transitional structure to oversee free, fair & credible elections!#CuretheCoup - Prof Jonathan Moyo (@ProfJNMoyo) December 14, 2017