Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Coup In Zimbabwe: Mugabe & Wife Grace Detained

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwe’s military seized power early on Wednesday targeting “criminals” around President Robert Mugabe but gave assurances on national television that the 93-year-old leader and his family were “safe and sound”.

Soldiers and armored vehicles blocked roads to the main government offices, parliament and the courts in central Harare, while taxis ferried commuters to work nearby, a Reuters witness said.

“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,” Zimbabwe 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.”

Neither Mugabe nor his wife Grace, who has been vying to succeed her husband as president, have been seen or heard from. Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change called for a peaceful return to constitutional democracy, adding it hoped the military intervention would lead to the “establishment of a stable, democratic and progressive nation state.”

The leader of Zimbabwe’s influential liberation war veterans called for South Africa, southern Africa and the West to re-engage Zimbabwe, whose economic decline over the past two decades has been a drag on the southern African region.

“This is a correction of a state that was careening off the cliff,” Chris Mutsvangwa told Reuters. “It’s the end of a very painful and sad chapter in the history of a young nation, in which a dictator, as he became old, surrendered his court to a gang of thieves around his wife.”

Soldiers overran the headquarters of the ZBC, Zimbabwe’s state broadcaster and a principal Mugabe mouthpiece, and ordered staff to leave. Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo, a leading member of the so-called ‘G40’ faction of the ruling ZANU-PF party led by Mugabe’s wife Grace, had been detained by the military, a government source said.

Mugabe, the self-styled ‘Grand Old Man’ of African politics, has led Zimbabwe for the last 37 years. In contrast to his elevated status on the continent, Mugabe is reviled in the West as a despot whose disastrous handling of the economy and willingness to resort to violence to maintain power destroyed one of Africa’s most promising states.

Generals said it was not a coup, just a military takeover. 
Soldiers deployed across the Zimbabwe capital Harare on Tuesday and seized the state broadcaster after Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party accused the head of the military of treason, prompting frenzied speculation of a coup.

Just 24 hours after military chief General Constantino Chiwenga threatened to intervene to end a purge of his allies in Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, a Reuters reporter saw armored personnel carriers on main roads around the capital. Aggressive soldiers told passing cars to keep moving through the darkness. “Don’t try anything funny. Just go,” one barked at Reuters on Harare Drive.

Two hours later, soldiers overran the headquarters of the ZBC, Zimbabwe’s state broadcaster and a principal Mugabe mouthpiece, and ordered staff to leave. Several ZBC workers were manhandled, two members of staff and a human rights activist said. Shortly afterwards, three explosions rocked the center of the southern African nation’s capital, Reuters witnesses said.

The United States and Britain advised their citizens in Harare to stay indoors because of “political uncertainty.” The southern African nation had been on edge since Monday when Chiwenga, Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, said he was prepared to “step in” to end a purge of supporters of sacked vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Only a few months ago, Mnangagwa, a former security chief nicknamed “The Crocodile”, was favorite to succeed his life-long political patron but was ousted a week ago to pave the way for Mugabe’s 52-year-old wife Grace to succeed him.


President-designate Grace Mugabe is 40 years junior to Mugabe.
Chiwenga’s unprecedented statement represented a major escalation of the struggle to succeed Mugabe, the only leader Zimbabwe has known since it gained independence from Britain in 1980.

Mugabe chaired a weekly cabinet meeting in the capital on Tuesday, officials said, and afterwards ZANU-PF said it stood by the “primacy of politics over the gun” and accused Chiwenga of “treasonable conduct ... meant to incite insurrection.”

The previous day, Chiwenga had made clear the army’s refusal to accept the removal of Mnangagwa - like the generals a veteran of Zimbabwe’s anti-colonial liberation war - and the presumed accession of Grace, once a secretary in the government typing pool.

Local government minister Saviour Kasukuwere, a leading figure in her relatively youthful ‘G40’ faction, refused to answer Reuters questions about the situation in Harare. “I’m in a meeting,” he said, before hanging up shortly before midnight. Army, police and government spokesmen refused to answer numerous phone calls asking for comment.

Zimbabwe’s Herald newspaper, another government mouthpiece, ran an article on its front page saying Zanu-PF was “unfazed by Chiwenga”, according to a picture of its front page posted on Twitter.

Just 24 hours after military chief General Constantino Chiwenga threatened to intervene to end a purge of his allies in Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, armored personnel carriers were spotted on the main roads around the capital.


Neither Mugabe nor Grace has responded in public to Chiwenga’s remarks and state media did not publish his statement. The Herald posted some of the comments on its Twitter page but deleted them. The head of ZANU-PF’s youth wing, which openly backs Grace, accused the army chief of subverting the constitution.

“Defending the revolution and our leader and president is an ideal we live for and if need be it is a principle we are prepared to die for,” Youth League leader Kudzai Chipanga said at the party’s headquarters in Harare.

Grace Mugabe’s rise has brought her into conflict with the independence-era war veterans, who enjoyed a privileged status in Zimbabwe until the last two years when they spearheaded criticism of Mugabe’s handling of the economy.

In the last year, a chronic absence of dollars has led to long queues outside banks and an economic and financial collapse that many fear will rival the meltdown of 2007-2008, when inflation topped out at 500 billion percent. Imported goods are running out and economists say that, by some measures, inflation is now at 50 percent a month.

According to a trove of intelligence documents reviewed by Reuters this year, Mnangagwa has been planning to revitalize the economy by bringing back thousands of white farmers kicked off their land nearly two decades ago and patching up relations with the likes of the World Bank and IMF.

At 93 Mugabe is too fucking old for even to be a lousy dictator.
A Legacy Of Tyrannical Rule, Economic Ruin And Isolation

It was April 1980, and at the center of it all was independence leader Robert Mugabe. His guerrilla war had won freedom for the British colony of Rhodesia, and ended the minority white rule of his country. Across Zimbabwe, thousands celebrated, and Mugabe — who had spent 11 years in prison, from 1964 to 1975, for his fight for independence — delivered a message of unity and inclusion.

"The phase we are entering, the phase of independence, should be conferring upon all of us — the people of Zimbabwe, whether we are black or white — full of sovereignty, full of democratic rights," Mugabe said. It was a message that earned Mugabe international praise and filled Zimbabwe with hope. But as the years wore on and Mugabe's rule turned authoritarian and the economy declined, that hope didn't last.

Early Wednesday morning, some of the same men who once looked at Mugabe with admiration ordered troops to sideline the 93-year-old despot. The military Mugabe once led finally turned against him, surrounding his house with tanks and placing him and his wife Grace Mugabe under house arrest.

"I think the legacy of Mugabe's life will be one of a leader who had so much, but [who] missed so many opportunities and never used the knowledge he had for his own people – a national leader who ruined his own country," said veteran Zimbabwean journalist and commentator Cris Chinaka.

At independence, Mugabe became Zimbabwe's prime minister, taking over a country that was considered the breadbasket of southern Africa. But just a few years after independence, Mugabe started showing flashes of the brutal, authoritarian ruler he would become. In a bid to squash opposition groups, Mugabe's forces killed thousands of people in Matabeleland in western Zimbabwe.

Mugabe became president in 1987. By 2000, Zimbabwe's economy was in shambles, in large part because of Mugabe's mismanagement. Amid the crisis, Mugabe proposed a referendum that would have strengthened his own powers and made it easier to redistribute white-owned land.

At the time, a voter told The Guardian: "We are fed up with his promises. We said we wanted less power to the president. But Mugabe has twisted our words. He has created a constitution which suits him but not the people."

Despite intimidation attempts by the government to get people to vote yes, the measure was defeated at the polls. The economy continued to sour and Mugabe blamed the woes on the British and Zimbabwe's white farmers – who openly supported the new opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change.

Mugabe then encouraged the violent seizure of thousands of flourishing, white-owned industrial farms. The government handed a lot of those farms to political allies who knew little about farming, and production plummeted.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas reported in a 2016 study of the Zimbabwean economy that the production of tobacco, Zimbabwe's major cash crop, dropped by 64 percent between 2000 and 2008. That was followed by drought and profligate government spending. Zimbabwe's economy collapsed. The symbol of runaway inflation became the $100 trillion note, printed in early 2009.

But Mugabe stayed in power, even after he lost the first round of a 2008 election. He used violence to muzzle the opposition and rewarded his inner circle with plum jobs that led to riches. More recently, Mugabe had become a pariah on the international scene and the butt of jokes on social media. But in an interview with South Africa's Dali Tambo in 2013, he remained defiant and unrepentant.

"If people say you are a dictator, they are saying this merely to tarnish you and diminish and demean your status," he said. "My people still need me. And when people still need you to lead them, it's not time ... to say goodbye." Mugabe had vowed to run for president again in 2018, but his health suffered, and there has been jockeying to take his place.

A deep rift emerged within Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party: Grace Mugabe courted the younger wing, while one of Mugabe's vice presidents, Emmerson Mnangagwa — who had served Mugabe for decades at high levels of government — courted the older members. Earlier this month, Mugabe fired Mnangagwa, accusing him of plotting to take his place.

It was a clear signal that Mugabe was trying to pave the way for his wife to take over power. A few days later, as the military took to Zimbabwe's airwaves to announce they had sidelined Mugabe, it seemed that even for a man who had outmaneuvered colonial powers, regional foes and assassination attempts, this was a sleight too far.

Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe is just copying the practice of US Federal Reserve by printing money.
(Only problem was that Z$ was not as popular as US$ even among Zimbabweans.)
The 100 trillion dollar bank note that is nearly worthless

(CNN)What do the U.S. dollar, South African rand, the British pound, Indian rupee, Japanese yen and Chinese yuan have in common? They are among the currencies being used in Zimbabwe as a solution to the country's problems with hyperinflation.

Since 2009, Zimbabwe has used other currencies in lieu of its own, which it abandoned after hyperinflation of more than 5,000 percent made it essentially worthless. This system of using multiple currencies has led to a deflation rate of -2.3%, according to Zimbabwe's bank governor.

"We changed to a multiple currency system to stabilize, and inflation went down to 0% and it was magic," said the Zimbabwe Reserve Bank Governor, John Mangudya. Zimbabwe used to have a Z$100,000,000,000,000 note - one trillion Zimbabwean dollars.

The note, along with previous hyper-inflated denominations including Z$10,000,000,000,000 (ten trillion) and Z$1,000,000,000,000 (one trillion), could be exchanged for U.S. dollars until the end of April 2016, but it was worth only about $0.40. It is fetching significant higher prices as a novelty item on websites such as eBay.

When inflation hit 230,000,000 percent in 2009 , the country's reserve bank -- infamous for its inability to contain sky-high hyperinflation -- declared the U.S. dollar as its official currency. From excessively high inflation to -2.3% deflation, Mangudya remembers the tough years vividly. "It was so traumatizing," he admitted. "We didn't have the tools to fight the monster that the economy was facing at the time."

The country had to keep printing money. Prices would change by the minute, causing stress revolving around the fluctuations, one of the devastating effects of hyperinflation. "It was terrible. You'd have to pay for your coffee before you drank it because if you waited the cost would rise within minutes," said businessman Shingi Minyeza, chairman of Vinal Investments.

Dollar is king: The U.S. dollar is the preferred currency in Zimbabwe at present, but others are welcome. "We are saying that since you can import/export goods from South Africa you can use the rand. If you are importing from China you can use the yuan. The U.S. dollar is our reserve currency," explained Mangudya.

Zimbabwe seems years away from reintroducing its own currency. In the meantime, it has coins called bonds. For each coin in circulation there's an equivalent U.S. dollar coin held in reserves.

There are over $13 million worth of these coins in the country, CNN was told, but recently banks have started printing "bond notes" representing U.S. dollar values up to $20, due to a cash shortage. Seems the more things change, the more that going back to the basics is the only option.