Looking from the outside in – A Zimbabwean take on the coup-not-a-coup

On Tuesday November 16 a convoy of military vehicles were spotted heading towards Zimbabwe’s capital Harare.

Unconfirmed reports of gunfire were heard near to President Robert Mugabe’s home that night.

The military, led by General Constantino Chiwenga, had taken control of the headquarters of the state broadcaster ZBC overnight and on Wednesday, in the early hours of the morning, had blocked access certain roads and government offices.

The army said this was not a military takeover, the president was safe, and that the army were simply “targeting the criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economical suffering in the country”.

This is all said to be brought about after the firing of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, to create space for First Lady Grace Mugabe, to take over the presidential position.

Having been born and raised in Zimbabwe, these are just a few of the names I’ve grown to know. The names of which are popular to some, but also the names of which have struck fear in the pits of stomachs of others.

These same names which have now started to turn against each other. In a race to make Zimbabwe the bread basket of Africa again? In a power-hungry struggle? Whatever the reason, the tables have turned.

Imagine waking up to find that your home, your family, and your country, Zimbabwe, are in a state of unrest as the ‘army takes control’.

It didn’t take much more to have me bolt upright and half way to the computer to seek out the live news reports.

My immediate thoughts and worries were for my family and friends, and after a phone call home to my father and receiving and in-depth comment on how the cats all were, he continued to tell me that all was fine, there was no trouble about and there was barely any difference apart from what the news was saying.

Being 12,404.4 kilometers away from my beautiful country, I was at a bit of a standstill.

The dramatic headlines are telling me one thing, meanwhile my firsthand source telling me another.

My emotional morning consisted hopping between a plethora of tweets, live updates, articles, news channels and videos.

Reports on Al Jazeera from Haru Mutasa live in Harare described the situation as tense.

“The atmosphere, if I can describe, is tense. I’m Zimbabwean, I was born after independence from Britain. I’ve never experienced this kind of feeling in the air.”

Boris Johnson, Britain’s foreign secretary, said in a statement: “It’s hard to say exactly how this will turn out. Everybody wants to see a stable and successful Zimbabwe.

“We are appealing for everyone to refrain from violence, that is the crucial thing.”

Many embassies in Zimbabwe were either closing for the day, or advising their citizens in the capital to stay indoors “amid the uncertainty”.


Reminders of the experiences Zimabweans’ have shared throughout the years were on constant reply in my mind.

I remember packing my crossword book, a pack of cards and some snacks to go accompany my mum in the car while we queued hours on end for fuel.

I remember times of walking into the supermarkets only to see one aisle barely packed with a few cans of tinned meat and some baked beans.

I remember standing in line at the supermarket queuing for a loaf of bread. The queues extended to outside the shop with each person being rationed to a loaf per person.

I remember being made flapjacks for my lunchbox at school shortly after, a treat at the time, but in reality, only because bread wasn’t available anymore.

Thinking back to those few times, mostly in the hyperinflation period of 2008, where Zimbabwe had it’s currency at a rate of Z$35 quadrillion to US$1, I was privileged.

The brutal beatings, imprisonments, burning down of houses and villages, the starvation and poverty and inhumane acts that some people had to endure, were far worse than any of my own encounters.

I remembered back to last year, with the #thisflag campaign led by Pastor Evan Mawarire, and how united the country had become.

His Facebook live video on Wednesday morning created a sense of calm within me, and I couldn’t help but shed a tear when he started to pray for our country, knowing that I, so far away, connected to home by only a computer screen, was not alone and that thousands of other Zimbabweans dotted all around the world were connected to that moment in time too.

He stated: ”In order to see a better Zimbabwe that we all want, we must now stand together. There has never been a more opportune time to be united than now.

“Zimbabwe needs you to remain calm but hopeful, Zimbabwe needs you to support and encourage each other.”

Reports kept coming through stating there was no unrest in Zimbabwe, that everything was calm and that the struggles appeared to be within the Zanu-PF party. I felt a little more at ease, and the hurt within my heart began to feel reassured.

My only fears were, what with my mother flying back to Zimbabwe that afternoon, the Tweets warning of “heavy military presence at Robert Gabriel Mugabe Airport demanding IDs and searching all vehicles entering or leaving”.

Regardless of the source, and regardless of knowing whether it was true or not, I jumped to conclusions and raced into panic mode, my mind conjuring up the unimaginable and worst situations that could happen.

After several stressed warning texts, and a phone call later, my Dad’s response came through.

“Yes, I have got Mum and am on my way home now. No trouble, soldiers all jovial and joking with everyone! There is a tangible sense of excitement all around!!!”

He was completely unfazed.


It is completely different trying to understand the level of intensity of a situation from the outside in. Knowing what is right and wrong and trying to follow the truth, when emotions and personal judgements tend to get the best of us.

With Grace allegedly having fled to Namibia, and certain members of parliament being detained, maybe this is the start of a fresh face for Zimbabwe?

Thousands of people have been awaiting change for a long time, and although it is hard to remain calm and understand the situation from the outside, change is good, and this change could be exactly what our rainbow nation needs.

However, we must remember that this is not a removal of political parties, and some of the stronger voices who have had a say in the past matters are still involved.

We are merely, potentially, removing one name, if not a tiny fraction, from the faction that is the Zanu PF. Although it is the change a lot of people want, we need to bare in mind the upcoming elections of next year where hopefully the country can start a real clean slate on proper grounds.

This is only the beginning in what we can hope to be the biggest blessing for our country, but what the future holds, only time will tell.

Image courtesy of Sky News, with thanks.

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