Speed Reads


Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe is reportedly stepping down

Update 8:53 a.m. ET: After originally describing the Zanu-PF Twitter account as an official government source, the BBC walked back its characterization. The account itself maintains its legitimacy, but it is unclear what affiliation it has with Mugabe’s ruling party. Our original story appears below.

Early Wednesday, Maj. Gen. Sibusiso Moyo, Zimbabwe's army chief of staff, denied on state TV that the military had overthrown longtime President Robert Mugabe, despite tanks in the streets and reports of explosions and gunfire. The ruling ZANU-PF party later tweeted that former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, whom Mugabe had ousted last week, had stepped in as interim president, and South Africa's News24 reported that Mugabe, 93, is "preparing to step down."

With Mnangagwa out of government, Mugabe's 52-year-old wife had been seen as his heir apparent. Army Gen. Constantino Chiwenga, an ally of Mnangagwa, had warned Mugabe Monday that to protect "our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in"; on Tuesday, information minister Simon Khaya Moyo said Chiwenga's comment "suggests treasonable conduct." The ZANU-PF Twitter feed makes it sound like Chiwenga has followed through with his threat. "There was no coup, only a bloodless transition which saw corrupt and crooked persons being arrested and an elderly man who had been taken advantage of by his wife being detained," the ZANU-PF account tweeted. "The few bangs that were heard were from crooks who were resisting arrest, but they are now detained."

The only reported arrest is Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo, a leading member of the ZANU-PF faction loyal to Grace Mugabe. "They have decided not to call it a coup because they know that a coup does not sell, it will be condemned," Alex Magaisa, a former adviser to Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, told BBC News. "But as far as authority is concerned it seems very clear that President Mugabe is now just a president in name and authority is now residing in the military."