Country Risk

Zimbabwean army likely to negotiate transitional power transfer to ousted vice-president following palace coup

15 November 2017
Zimbabwean soldier in an armoured vehicle by an intersection regulating civilian traffic in Harare on 15 November. Source: Wilfred Kajese/AFP/Getty Images

Key Points

  • The military’s intervention follows the recent dismissal of the vice-president and a purge of ruling-party loyalists as First Lady Grace Mugabe vies for power.
  • The army is likely to negotiate a transitional power transfer to ousted vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, indicating a shift in policy direction, with areas particularly likely to be affected including economic proposals aimed at Zimbabwe’s re-engagement with the international community.
  • Violent confrontations between rival factions in the ruling ZANU-PF party and the military are likely in the coming weeks and will probably pose risks of injury to passers-by, minor damage to commercial property on the high streets in the Central Business District, and disruption to road networks in the main cities lasting up to three days at a time.


The Zimbabwean military overnight (14–15 November) took control of state broadcaster Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and mounted roadblocks and patrols around key government offices, courts, and the parliament building in Harare, and at the presidential palace.

In a televised speech following the takeover, Major-General Sibusiso Moyo of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) announced that 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe and his family are “safe and sound and their security is guaranteed”, although local media sources report that they are under house arrest. Gen Moyo claimed that the military was “in charge” for the purpose of “dealing” with “criminals” who had surrounded President Mugabe but denied a coup had taken place.

Military intervention follows dismissal of vice-president

Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa was expelled from the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU–PF) party on 8 November after a meeting of its politburo acting on recommendations from the party’s provincial leaders. Mnangagwa’s dismissal as vice-president happened following events at a political rally on 5 November in which the first lady, Grace Mugabe, publicly accused him of dividing the ZANU–PF by attempting to overthrow the president with the support of the army.

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