Timeline: How Zimbabwe’s ‘coup’ unfolded

Here is a timeline of the developing political crisis in Zimbabwe, where the country’s 93-year-old president, Robert Mugabe, insists he is still in power despite a military takeover and a rising clamour for him to quit.

Army takes control 

  • November 14: Tanks are seen moving on the outskirts of the capital a day after army chief Constantino Chiwenga denounces Mugabe’s sacking of vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mnangagwa is seen as a rival of Mugabe’s wife Grace, 52, to succeed the veteran 93-year-old leader.

Later, heavy gunfire is heard near Mugabe’s residence in Harare.

Military officers deny a coup. In an overnight declaration on state television, they say Mugabe is safe and they are “only targeting criminals around him”.

Mugabe under house arrest 

  • November 15: Military vehicles take control of the streets of Harare from the early hours, controlling access to parliament, ruling party headquarters and the Supreme Court.

South Africa says Mugabe has told its president, Jacob Zuma, by telephone that he is under house arrest but is “fine”.


South Africa sends two special envoys to Zimbabwe. The European Union urges a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

The head of the African Union, Guinea’s President Alpha Conde, says the situation “seems like a coup”.

Mugabe refuses to resign 

  • November 16: Mugabe refuses to step down during talks with generals, a source close to the army leadership says.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai also calls for Mugabe to go “in the interest of the people”.

Mugabe and envoys from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional bloc, dispatched by Zuma, hold talks at the presidency.

Mugabe appears

  • November 17: Mugabe makes a first public appearance since the military takeover, attending a university graduation ceremony.

The army says negotiations with the 93-year-old president are continuing.

Veterans of Zimbabwe’s independence war call for mass anti-Mugabe street protests on Saturday. Their leader Christopher Mutsvangwa tells Mugabe “the game is up”.

Eight of the 10 regional branches of the ruling ZANU-PF party also call for him to resign.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson says the people of Zimbabwe must choose their own government through elections.

Sources close to ousted vice president Mnangagwa suggest he has returned to Zimbabwe — but this later turns out not to be the case.

Mass protests 

  • November 18: Thousands of protesters flood Zimbabwe’s streets demanding Mugabe’s resignation. 

The peaceful demonstrations — organised by independence war veterans and backed by ZANU-PF barons and the army — include a sit-down protest within 200 metres (220 yards) of the complex which was the nerve centre of Mugabe’s authoritarian rule.

Mugabe hangs on

  • November 19: The influential youth league leader of ZANU-PF calls for Mugabe and his wife Grace to go.

The head of Zimbabwe’s war veterans’ association Chris Mutsvangwa says Mugabe should give in “now”, adding: “The army must finish with him today.”

Former vice president Mnangagwa replaces Mugabe as ZANU-PF party chief and Grace Mugabe is expelled. 

The ruling party says Mugabe must resign as president by midday Monday, or face impeachment.

But in a live televised address, Mugabe defies expectations he will resign, instead saying he will preside over ZANU-PF’s congress in December.

Impeachment plans

  • November 20: ZANU-PF sets plans for launching the impeachment process in parliament on Tuesday after Mugabe misses the noon deadline to quit, says lawmaker Paul Mangwana.

The party also reaches out to the main opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), seeking their cooperation to pass the necessary parliamentary votes.

Chiwenga tells journalists that Mnangagwa is in touch with Mugabe and that the army and the president are working on a “roadmap for the country”. He also urges calm and patience.

The crocodile resurfaces 

  • November 21: Mnangagwa, known as ‘the crocodile’, issues a statement in which he calls for Mugabe to stand down — his first intervention since the start of the army takeover.

The war veterans call for immediate protests outside Mugabe’s private residence.

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