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Zimbabwe on edge: President Robert Mugabe under house arrest amid coup fears

At the age of 93, Robert Mugabe is a political survivor, but his days could be numbered.

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Zimbabwe is in the midst of what appears to be a political crisis that is looking more and more like a military coup. Events started late yesterday when tanks from the Zimbabwean Army poured into the streets of the capital Harare.

Since then, Zimbabwean broadcasters have been off air, with reports emerging that the Army has taken control of the state broadcaster, a move which often signals that a general coup is taking place against the government.

As of last night and early this morning, local time, telecom services in Zimbabwe were switched off, meaning that information has been slow to emerge and when news items do come out of Harare, are often marred in contradiction.

The first statement to emerge was from the Army itself. An officer appeared on ZBC television and said that no coup is taking place but rather, that certain figures “committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country”. The statement continued,

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

The Army’s statement further assured the country that President Robert Mugabe and his family are safe.

However, a statement from a representative of Harare’s city government offered a summation of events which seems to imply that business is progressing in a normal way and that there are seemingly fewer Army vehicles on the streets than initially reported. The statement from City Hall read,

“We’re doing our work normally, and everybody is at work as usual. Public transport is available and people are going to work. Access to the City Hall is open. I’m in my office right now. Everybody is at work. We are doing our work as normal. There’s no one from the military here”.

 

Hours ago, South African President Jacob Zuma called for calm and stated that he spoke to President Mugabe who is “confined to his home but said that he was fine”.

It can therefore be assumed with some measure of confidence that Mugabe is effectively under house arrest while de-facto out of power, even though he remains the internationally recognised President of Zimbabwe.

Zuma issued a further call for calm via the South African government’s Twitter,

Robert Mugabe who has been President of Zimbabwe since 1987 while being Prime Minister prior to that, starting in 1980, is a political survivor against many odds, both foreign and domestic.

Throughout the 1970s, Mugabe led the Maoist Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) in the struggle against the government of Ian Smith, the leader of what was then Rhodesia’s Unilateral Declaration of Independence from Britain in 1965. Smith went on the rule the widely unrecognised state of Rhodesia from 1965 until its collapse in 1979. While in power, Smith presided over a government whose members were compromised overwhelmingly of Rhodesia’s white minority, a situation the black majority found unacceptable.

Mugabe’s ZANU faction was rivalled by another black liberation party, Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) led by the Marxist-Leninist Joshua Nkomo. Against the background of the Sino-Soviet rivalry ZANU was favoured by China while ZAPU was favoured by the Soviet Union with Smiths’ government winning favour almost exclusively from South Africa as well as right wing politicians in Britain, Australia, Canada and the United States.

In 1979, Britain held talks between all sides in what led to the Lancaster House Agreement. This agreement temporarily brought what by then was called Zimbabwe-Rhodesia back under British rule as  Southern Rhodesia, before fully gaining independence as Zimbabwe in 1980.

Mugabe became the first Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, working with both his black pro-Soviet rival Nkomo as well as Ian Smith who under the terms set out in the new constitution, was able to retain a bloc of seats in the parliament specifically designated for the white minority. In 1983, Mugabe had his penultimate falling out with Nkomo, who later fled the country.

In 1987, Smith whose relationship with Mugabe became increasingly tense, stepped down as the leader of the white opposition movement, the Conservative Alliance of Zimbabwe..

That same year Mugabe moved from the office of Prime Minister to President, in an increasingly strong presidential system, as opposed to the previous parliamentary driven government.

In the subsequent years, Mugabe instigated his land reform programme which saw the private holdings of white farmers transferred to black ownership. The move proved deeply unpopular with the white minority, but won Mugabe acclaim in both Zimbabwe and among the black population of Apartheid South Africa.

By the turn of the 21st century, Mugabe’s position was widely unassailable, but rampant inflation proved to cause consternation among a majority of Zimbabweans.

More recently, the prospect of further investment from Mugabe’s consummate ally China, has brought hope of economic renewal for Zimbabwe.

At 93 years old, the biggest threat to Mugabe’s rule has been the largely accurate perception that when he dies, he intends to pass power onto his deeply unpopular wife Grace.

Grace remains a polarising figure and her rise to power could well have been a proximate cause of the apparent coup. The careful, though by no means perfect, tribal balancing act that has allowed Mugabe to remain in power could be threatened by a leader such as his wife.

That being said, South Africa is in a position to restore Mugabe’s rule should President Zuma believe that a constitutional crisis in neighbouring Zimbabwe threatens regional stability. Furthermore, some members of Zuma’s African National Congress and other smaller left-wing parties in South Africa continue to view Mugabe as a hero of the anti-colonial black liberation movement.

For the moment, Zuma has called for calm, but his words indicating that peace and stability must not be “undermined”, does leave the door open for a South African intervention to restore Mugabe’s legal power should Zuma feel that such a thing is worth it.

While some have been quick to say that the events in Zimbabwe are foreign “regime change”, the realities on the ground do not yet indicate this. It is true that foreign powers pump money into many of Mugabe’s political opponents in Zimbabwe, but the fact that the once highly loyal army along with Mugabe’s own left-wing party appear to have willingly participated in procuring his and Grace’s house arrest, indicates that the events in the country are domestic in origin.

It would appear that the Army has chosen to rally around former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa who recently fled the country after being sacked by Mugabe.

In this sense, the ‘coup’ against Mugabe is somewhat similar in terms of its likely effects as was the judicial ouster of former Pakistani Premier Nawaz Sharif. While the Supreme Court in Islamabad removed Sharif from office, his party remained and the policies of the Pakistani government remained largely the same. If the ‘coup’ in Zimbabwe is successful, something similar will likely happen in Zimbabwe, especially as it relates to the country’s long-term good relations with China, relations which will almost certainly continue to remain positive under a would-be successor to Mugabe plucked from the ranks of the ZANU-PF elite.

While even some of Mugabe’s erstwhile supports have become fatigued with his omnipresent rule in the country, Mugabe has previously faced off challenges with comparative ease. So long as Robert Mugabe is alive and well, which apparently he is, there is always a chance that either with the help of his loyal lieutenants or with the help of South Africa, he could restore his position. It is still too early to write off the future prospects of a man who is a true political survivor in a continent that has had more violent power struggles than any other.

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Russian Il-20 downed by Syrian missile. Russia blames Israel. Israel blames Syria (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 110.

Alex Christoforou

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The unthinkable has happened in Syria.

The world now teeters on the brink of all out war in Syria as a Russian Il-20 was downed by Syrian missile after Israeli F-16s used it as cover during attack, according to statements made by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

President Vladimir Putin, answering a reporter’s question during a press conference with Hungarian PM Viktor Orban, said the downing of the Russian Il-20 plane looks like “a chain of tragic circumstances.” 

The Duran’s Alex Christoforou and Editor-in-Chief Alexander Mercouris discuss the tripwire triggered that has the potential to tip the fragile balance in Syria towards conflict between Russia, Iran and Israel.

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The Russian military says an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its Il-20 plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile. Moscow reserves the right to respond accordingly.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said…

“Israel did not warn the command of the Russian troops in Syria about the planned operation. We received a notification via a hotline less than a minute before the strike, which did not allow the Russian aircraft to be directed to a safe zone.”

The statement by the Russian Defense Ministry said that four Israeli F-16 fighter jets attacked targets in Syria’s Latakia after approaching from the Mediterranean.

The Israeli warplanes approached at a low altitude and “created a dangerous situation for other aircraft and vessels in the region.”

The statement further said that 15 Russian military service members have died as a result…

“The Israeli pilots used the Russian plane as cover and set it up to be targeted by the Syrian air defense forces. As a consequence, the Il-20, which has radar cross-section much larger than the F-16, was shot down by an S-200 system missile.”

According to reports from RT, the Russian military said that the French Navy’s frigate ‘Auvergne,’ as well as a Russian Il-20 plane were in the area during the Israeli operation.

Map of the incident on September 17 in Syria provided by the Russian defense ministry.

The Russian ministry said the Israelis must have known that the Russian plane was present in the area, but this did not stop them from executing “the provocation.” Israel also failed to warn Russia about the planned operation in advance. The warning came just a minute before the attack started, which “did not leave time to move the Russian plane to a safe area,”the statement said.

The statement gives a larger death toll than earlier reports by the Russian military, which said there were 14 crew members on board the missing Il-20. It said a search and rescue operation for the shot-down plane is underway.

A later update said debris from the downed plane was found some 27km off the Latakia coast. The search party collected some body parts, personal possessions of the crew, and fragments of the plane.

Meanwhile Israel has come out to blame the Syrian government for the downing of the military plane, according to an IDF statement.

Israel said that it “expresses sorrow for the death of the aircrew members” of the Russian plane. However, it stated that the government of Bashar Assad “whose military shot down the Russian plane,” is “fully responsible” for the incident.

Israel further blamed Iran and Hezbollah for the incident.

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) explained that its jets were targeting a Syrian facility “from which systems to manufacture accurate and lethal weapons were about to be transferred on behalf of Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon.”

Israel claimed that the weapons were “meant to attack Israel.”

Via RT

The IDF assumed that the Syrian anti-air batteries “fired indiscriminately” and didn’t “bother to ensure that no Russian planes were in the air.” The Israelis said that when the Syrian military launched the missiles which hit the Russian plane, its own jets were already within Israeli airspace. “During the strike against the target in Latakia, the Russian plane that was then hit was not within the area of the operation.”

According to the Israeli military, both IDF and Russia have “a deconfliction system,” which was agreed upon by the leadership of both states, and “has proven itself many times over recent years.” The system was in use when the incident happened, the IDF stated. The IDF promised to share “all the relevant information” with Russia “to review the incident and to confirm the facts in this inquiry.”

The military presented a four-point initial inquiry into events in Latakia. It insisted that “extensive and inaccurate” Syrian anti-aircraft fire caused the Russian jet “to be hit and downed.”

The Russian Il-20 aircraft, with 15 crew on board, went off radar during an attack by four Israeli jets on Syria’s Latakia province late Monday. Later on Tuesday the Russian Defense Ministry said that an Israeli raid on Syria triggered a chain of events that led to its plane being shot down by a Syrian S-200 surface-to-air missile.

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Trump Orders Immediate Release Of All Text Messages, Carter Page FISA Application From Russia Investigation

Trump has ordered the DOJ to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions.

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Via Zerohedge

President Trump has ordered the Department of Justice to release all text messages related to the Russia investigation with no redactions, of former FBI Director James Comey, his deputy Andrew McCabe, now-fired special agent Peter Strzok, former FBI attorney Lisa Page and twice-demoted DOJ official Bruce Ohr.

Also released will be specific pages from the FBI’s FISA surveillance warrant application on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page, as well as interviews with Ohr.

The statement reads in full:

“At the request of a number of committees of Congress, and for reasons of transparency, the President has directed the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to provide for the immediate declassification of the following materials: (1) pages 10-12 and 17-34 of the June 2017 application to the FISA court in the matter of Carter W. Page; (2) all FBI reports of interviews with Bruce G. Ohr prepared in connection with the Russia investigation; and (3) all FBI reports of interviews prepared in connection with all Carter Page FISA applications.

In addition, President Donald J. Trump has directed the Department of Justice (including the FBI) to publicly release all text messages relating to the Russia investigation, without redaction, of James Comey, Andrew McCabe, Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and Bruce Ohr

***

As we reported last Monday, Trump had been expected to release the documents any time – with specific attention to the Page documents and the “investigative activities of Justice Department lawyer Bruce Ohr” – who was demoted twice for lying about his extensive relationship  with Christopher Steele – the former MI6 spy who assembled the sham “Steele Dossier” used by the FBI in a FISA surveillance application to spy on Page.

Republicans on the House Intelligence and Judiciary committees believe the declassification will permanently taint the Trump-Russia investigation by showing the investigation was illegitimate to begin with. Trump has been hammering the same theme for months.

  • They allege that Bruce Ohr played an improper intermediary role between the Justice Department, British spy Christopher Steele and Fusion GPS — the opposition research firm that produced the Trump-Russia dossier, funded by Democrats. (Ohr’s wife, Nellie, worked for Fusion GPS on Russia-related matters during the presidential election — a fact that Ohr did not disclose on federal forms.)
  • And they further allege that the Obama administration improperly spied on Carter Page — all to take down Trump. –Axios

Ohr, meanwhile, met with Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska in 2015 to discuss helping the FBI with organized crime investigations, according to The Hill‘s John Solomon. The meeting with the Putin ally was facilitated by Steele.

Last month Trump called Ohr a disgrace, while also tweeting: “Will Bruce Ohr, whose family received big money for helping to create the phony, dirty and discredited Dossier, ever be fired from the Jeff Sessions  “Justice” Department? A total joke!”

Trump’s threat came one day after two tweets about Ohr, noting a connection to former FBI agent Peter Strzok, as well as a text sent by Ohr after former FBI Director James Comey was fired in which Ohr says “afraid they will be exposed.”

According to emails turned over to Congressional investigators in August, Christopher Steele was much closer to Bruce Ohr and his wife Nellie than previously disclosed.

Steele and the Ohrs would have breakfast together on July 30, 2016 at the Mayflower Hotel in downtown Washington D.C., days after Steele turned in installments of his infamous “dossier” on July 19 and 26. The breakfast also occurred one day before the FBI formally launched operation “Crossfire Hurricane,” the agency’s counterintelligence operation into the Trump campaign.

“Great to see you and Nellie this morning Bruce,” Steele wrote shortly following their breakfast meeting. “Let’s keep in touch on the substantive issues/s (sic). Glenn is happy to speak to you on this if it would help.”

“After two years of investigations and accusations from both sides of the aisle about what documents indicate, it is past time for documents to be declassified and let the American people decide for themselves if DoJ and FBI acted properly,” Freedom Caucus chairman Mark Meadows told Axios earlier Sunday.

In early August, journalist Paul Sperry tweeted that Trump may use his presidential authority to declassify “20 redacted pages of a June, 2017 FISA renewal, “and possibly” 63 pages of emails and notes between “Ohr & Steele,” and FD-302 summaries of 12 interviews.”

President Trump threatened to declassify documents two weeks ago – one day after the New York Times allegedly published an anonymous Op-Ed claiming to be from a White House official claiming to be part of an unelected “resistance” cabal within the Trump administration.

“The Deep State and the Left, and their vehicle, the Fake News Media, are going Crazy – & they don’t know what to do,” Trump tweeted earlier this month, adding: “The Economy is booming like never before, Jobs are at Historic Highs, soon TWO Supreme Court Justices & maybe Declassification to find Additional Corruption. Wow!”

Trump’s threat comes as calls by frustrated GOP legislators to release the documents have hit a fevered pitch. Spearheading the effort are Republican Reps. Meadows, Jim Jordan, Matt Gaetz and Lee Zeldin – who have repeatedly asked Trump to declassify more of the heavily redacted FISA surveillance warrant on former Trump campaign aide Carter Page in late 2016.

In June, Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee asked President Trump to declassify key sections of Carter Page’s FISA warrant application, according to a letter obtained by Fox News.

Carter Page, the DOJ/FBI’s person of interest, weighed in on the matter in late August, tweeting: “The Corrupt DOJ, co-conspirators in the DNC and their high-priced consultants correctly believed they had American democracy and the FISA Court over a barrel in 2016.”

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De-Dollarization Tops Agenda at Russia’s Eastern Economic Forum

The Eastern Economic Forum (EEF) was held in Vladivostok on Sept.11-13. Founded in 2015, the event has become a platform for planning and launching projects to strengthen business ties in the Asia-Pacific region.

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Via Strategic Culture

This year, the EEF brought together delegations from over 60 countries to discuss the topic “The Far East: Expanding the Range of Possibilities”. A total of 100 business events involving over 6,000 participants were held during the three days.

1,357 media personnel worked to cover the forum. Last year, the number of participants was 5,000 with 1,000 media persons involved in reporting and broadcasting. The EEF-18 gathered 340 foreign and 383 Russian CEOs. Nearly 80 start-ups from across South-East Asia joined the meeting.

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This year, a total of 175 agreements worth of 2.9 trillion rubles (some $4.3 billion) were signed. For comparison, the sum was 2.5 trillion rubles (roughly $3.7 billion) in 2017.

They included the development of the Baimsky ore deposits in Chukotka, the construction of a terminal for Novatek LNG at Bechevinskaya Bay in Kamchatka and the investment of Asian countries in Russia’s agricultural projects in the Far East.

Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF), Mail.Ru Group, Megafon and Chinese Alibaba inked an agreement on establishing AliExpress trade joint venture. Rosneft and Chinese CNPC signed an oil exploration agreement.

The Chinese delegation was the largest (1,096 people), followed by the Japanese (570 members). The list of guests included the president of Mongolia and prime ministers of Japan and South Korea.

It was also the first time Chinese President Xi Jinping attended the event to meet his Russian counterpart. The issue of de-dollarization topped the agenda. Russia and China reaffirmed their interest in expanding the use of national currencies in bilateral deals.

During the forum, Kirill Dmitriev, the head of RDIF, said the fund intends to use only national currencies in its transactions with China starting from 2019. It will cooperate with the China Development Bank.

This “yuanification” is making visible progress with Shanghai crude futures increasing their share of oil markets up to 14 percent or even more. China has signed agreements with Canada and Qatar on national currencies exchange.

READ MORE: Eastern Economic Forum opens new chapter in US-Russia dialogue

De-dollarization is a trend that is picking up momentum across the world. A growing number of countries are interested in replacing the dollar. Russia is leading the race to protect itself from fluctuations, storms and US-waged trade wars and sanctions.

Moscow backs non-dollar trade with Ankara amid the ongoing lira crisis. Turkey is switching from the dollar to settlements in national currencies, including its trade with China and other countries. Ditching the US dollar is the issue topping the BRICS agenda. In April, Iran transferred all international payments to the euro.

The voices calling for de-dollarization are getting louder among America’s closest European allies. In August, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas called for the creation of a new payments system independent of the US.

According to him, Europe should not allow the United States to act “over our heads and at our expense.” The official wants to strengthen European autonomy by establishing independent payment channels, creating a European Monetary Fund and building up an independent SWIFT system.

Presenting his annual program, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called on Sept. 12 for the European Union to promote the euro as a global currency to challenge the dollar.

According to him, “We must do more to allow our single currency to play its full role on the international scene.” Mr. Juncker believes “it is absurd that Europe pays for 80 percent of its energy import bill – worth 300 billion euros a year – in US dollars when only roughly 2 percent of our energy imports come from the United States.” He wants the raft of proposals made in his state of the union address to start being implemented before the European Parliament elections in May.

70% of all world trade transactions account for the dollar, while 20% are  settled in the euro, and the rest falls on the yuan and other Asian currencies. The dollar value is high to make the prices of consumer goods in the US artificially low. The demand for dollars allows refinancing the huge debt at low interest rates. The US policy of trade wars and sanctions has triggered the global process of de-dollarization.

Using punitive measures as a foreign policy tool is like shooting oneself in the foot. It prompts a backlash to undermine the dollar’s status as the world reserve currency – the basis of the US economic might. The aggressive policy undermines the US world standing to make it weaker, not stronger.

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