Four key players in Zimbabwe's political crisis


President Robert Mugabe listens to his wife Grace Mugabe at a rally of his ruling ZANU-PF party in Harare, Zimbabwe, November 8, 2017.

HARARE - The army has seized control in Zimbabwe, deploying vehicles in the capital Harare and seizing the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC).

Last week, President Robert Mugabe fire his vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, purportedly to leave the way clear for his wife Grace, to ascend to the party leadership once he retires.

This prompted a political crisis, with General Constantino Chiwenga on Monday giving Zanu-PF an ultimatum to stop purging former freedom fighters from positions of power within the party.

Chiwenga said that Section 22 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe mandated the country’s defence forces to protect Zimbabwe.

First lady Grace Mugabe is seen as part of a group of younger politicians no longer aligned to the army that is taking on more senior leaders.

Her &39;G40&39; faction of the ruling Zanu-PF party has been working behind the scenes to ensure she succeed her 93-year-old president.

Who is Grace Mugabe?

Grace Mugabe was born in Benoni, South Africa in 1965.

She became Zimbabwe’s First Lady in 1996 when she married President Robert Mugabe in an extravagant ceremony dubbed the "Wedding of the Century.

Grace Mugabe has four children: Russell Goreraza (with ex-husband Stanley Goreraza) and Bona Nyepudzayi, Robert Peter Jr and Chatunga Bellarmine Mugabe.

She was in prime position to succeed her husband as the next president -- a succession strongly opposed by senior ranks in the military.

Grace Mugabe is no stranger to controversy. In August, Johannesburg model Gabriella Engels opened a case of assault against Mugabe. Engels said the first lady attacked her on 13 August after she had gone to see the Mugabe sons Robert and Chatunga at a hotel in Sandton. When Mugabe saw Engels in the company of her sons, she allegedly attacked the young woman using an extension cord. Engels suffered lacerations and bruises.

In 2015, Grace Mugabe placed an order for a 100-carat diamond ring worth $1.35-million to mark the anniversary of her wedding to Robert Mugabe. She is suing the Lebanese businessman who failed to deliver the ring.

The European Union renewed sanctions against the Mugabes in February. The economic and travel restrictions have been in place since 2002.

The first lady graduated with a dubious Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree from the University of Zimbabwe in 2014. She obtained her first degree in 2011 through distance learning with the People&39;s University of China.

With an eye for business, Grace Mugabe was set to start making chocolate and ice-cream at her state-of-the-art dairy in 2015. Alpha Omega Dairies, in Mazowe, north of Harare, produces fresh milk, lacto (sour milk), fruit juice and yoghurt.

Grace Mugabe is also a property mogul. The president&39;s wife owns several other properties in Mazowe, including a farm, where she runs a private school and an orphanage. She reportedly owns a R45-million house in South Africa as well as mansions in Malaysia and Hong Kong.

Who is Emmerson “Crocodile” Mnangagwa?

The axing of Zimbabwe vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa is largely responsible for the political crisis Zimbabwe is currently facing.

He was kicked out of both government and the ruling Zanu-PF party early in November, after he was accused of plotting to oust President Robert Mugabe.

Mnangagwa, with a long history in Zimbabwe’s freedom struggle and subsequently on its political landscape, was previously considered a frontrunner to succeed Mugabe.

So who is Emmerson Mnangagwa?

Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa was born on September 15, 1946 when Zimbabwe was still called Rhodesia and under British rule.

He was arrested at college in 1960 for taking part in a protest against colonial rule, having joined the student movement of Zambia’s United National Independence Party (Unip).

In 1962, he joined the Zimbabwe African People&39;s Union (Zapu) but ditched the group for the newly-formed Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu) a year later. He was part of the first group of young party leaders sent to China for military training.

Upon his return, he earned the nickname "ngwena" or "crocodile" for leading a group of fighters called the Crocodile Gang, which bombed several trains and killed a white farmer.

Mnangagwa was arrested in 1965 and sentenced to death, but his lawyers successfully argued that he should be spared the gallows because he was under the age of 21.

He spent the next decade in jail, where he was brutally tortured using methods like water boarding and beatings, which permanently affected the hearing in his left ear, according to the BBC.

In prison he met and befriended another freedom fighter, Robert Mugabe.

When he was finally released in the 1970s, Mnangagwa was deported to Zambia where he completed his law degree.

He remained close to Mugabe and was chosen as special assistant to Mugabe in 1977, becoming head of both the civil and military divisions of Zanu-PF.

When Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980, Mugabe became prime minister while Mnangagwa was appointed the first Minister of National Security.

From 1988 to 2000, Mnangagwa served as Minister of Justice, Legal and Paramilitary Affairs, leader of the House as well as occupying several other positions for short terms.

When Mnangagwa was defeated by the opposition MDC in a parliamentary election, Mugabe appointed him to one of the unelected seats in Parliament, and he was then elected Speaker. It was during his time that the United Nations recommended travel bans and financial sanctions against him, over his involvement in the illegal exploitation of natural resources from the Congo and for making Zimbabwe a significant illicit diamond trading centre.

The relationship between the once-close comrades became strained after an alleged coup in 2007, when high-ranking military forces reportedly asked Mnangagwa to form a government with the heads of the armed forces. He denied involvement.

Nevertheless, Mnangagwa was the mastermind behind Mugabe’s 2008 presidential campaign. The MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai won the first round of the elections, sparking deadly violence during which hundreds of opposition supporters were killed. Mugabe was re-elected when Tsvangirai pulled out of the second round and Mnangagwa was appointed defence minister.

When Mugabe won another presidential term in 2013, Mnangagwa was appointed vice president.

Mnangagwa was considered to be Mugabe’s chosen successor until he crossed paths with Grace Mugabe. When Grace Mugabe was booed at a rally in Bulawayo early in November, the first couple blamed Mnangagwa, accusing him of busing in his supporters to embarrass the first lady.

On November 6, Mugabe fired Mnangagwa and accused him of plotting to take power, including through witchcraft. According to President Mugabe, the vice president "consistently and persistently exhibited traits of disloyalty, disrespect, deceitfulness and unreliability".

Mnangagwa reportedly fled the country, saying he and his family had been threatened.

This was seen as clearing the path for Grace Mugabe to take over from her 93-year-old husband.

Who is General Constantino Chiwenga?

Tensions between Mugabe and the military intensified recently, when army chief, General Constantino Chiwenga, demanded a stop to purges of veterans of the liberation struggle in the ruling party.

Zimbabwe&39;s military took control on Wednesday targeting "criminals" around the president, but it gave assurances on national television that the 93-year-old leader and his family were "safe and sound".

Chiwenga was accused of &39;treasonable conduct&39; by Zanu-PF.

READ: 10 things you didn&39;t know about Robert Mugabe



Sixty-one--year-old Chiwenga has a long military history, having served in the military wing of the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu) and being named a brigadier in the newly formed Zimbabwe National Army after the country&39;s declaration of independence.

Chiwenga was promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General after the formation of the  Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) in 1994, and was appointed commander of the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA). 

When Upon General Vitalis Zvinavashe retired in 2004, Chiwenga was promoted to the rank of Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.


Chiwenga is the chairman of the Joint Operations Command, which comprises the commanders of ZNA, Prison Services, Central Intelligence Organisation, Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Air Force of Zimbabwe.

He participated actively during the controversial Zimbabwean land reform programme and owns a farm near Harare.

He is also on the sanctions list of those Zimbabwean officials not allowed to enter the European Union and the United States.

Chiwenga has been involved in Zanu PF factionalism and succession fights, where he has backed former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The Mnangagwa faction is locked in a war of attrition with the rising camp led by First Lady Grace Mugabe, referred to as Generation 40.

Rumours have been afoot that Chiwenga would be retired for political reasons as the president implied he was unhappy with political interference by military leaders.

Officials said Mugabe was not happy with Chiwenga’s interference in Zanu PF factional and succession politics and was determined to ensure his party stayed within its guiding Maoist philosophy that “the party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the party”.

Who is Major General SB Moyo? 

Major General Sibusiso Moyo went on state television to deny the army speculation of a military coup in the country.

General Moyo, is considered close to the commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Constantino Chiwenga, warned that “any provocation will be met with an appropriate response.”

Moyo is a former member of the Zimbabwe People&39;s Revolutionary Army (Zipra), the armed wing of the Zimbabwe African People&39;s Union (Zapu), which merged with Zanu PF in 1987.

He rose through the ranks of the Zimbabwe National Army and was viewed as a strong supporter of Robert Mugabe during the June 2008 bloody presidential run-off in which MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, pulled out citing Zanu PF’s campaign that resulted in about 200 MDC supporters being killed.

Moyo commanded the military operation in Midlands province during the runoff period.

LIVE BLOG: Zimbabwe in turmoil

During 2008, many senior military officers were deployed to run key government arms and departments, Moyo being one, serving as a member of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Holdings board.

In 2009, Moyo was placed on a targeted sanctions list along with 74 others, as individuals known to be supporters of the president.

In the build-up to the 2013 general elections, the Zimbabwe Independent revealed that security chiefs again dispatched senior military officers to the country’s 10 provinces to spearhead Zanu PF’s election campaigns.

Under the plan, Moyo, then a brigadier-general, was deployed to manage various provinces.

In March 2016, Mugabe promoted Moyo to the rank of Major-General.

Deviation from public support for Mugabe began for the major-general at the burial of his mother, Gogo Catherine Moyo. It was there, General Chiwenga said the country’s sons and daughters who contributed to the country’s struggle deserve respect from all corners of the country after refusing to attend a Zanu PF rally in Chinhoyi.

His statements were taken as a rebuttal aimed at the president and his wife Grace amid rising tensions regarding succession.


- Additional reporting by Wikipedia, BBC & Voice of America

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