The tension has been mounting in Zimbabwe since tanks and armoured cars took to the streets of the Zimbabwean capital of Harare and other major cities on November 13. The situation deteriorated when the Army seized headquarters of the state television ZBC on November 14. Then, an Army spokesperson announced that the armed forces were targeting people close to 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe. South African President Jacob Zuma confirmed the news, saying that he had spoken to Mugabe, who had indicated that he “was confined to his home, but said that he was fine”. The events, which took place in those 48 hours, mark the beginning of the end of Mugabe’s 37-year-reign.

Last week, Mugabe sacked Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and forced the latter to leave the African nation. Before leaving Zimbabwe, Mnangagwa said that there were “incessant threats” to his life. The sacking of vice president triggered military action, with the Army chief announcing that the armed forces would take necessary actions in order to stabilise the political situation. On Wednesday, the Army deployed troops and tanks in major places across the country and seized the state media.

However, the Army denied it was a coup. Major General Sibusiso Moyo told his countrymen that the military wished to “assure the nation that His Excellency the president… and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed”. He also said: “We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes… that are causing social and economic suffering in the country. As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.”

Meanwhile, various news agencies reported that it was a coup as the country is under military control. The main entrances of the Parliament, government offices and courts have been closed. Also, heavy firing had been heard in northern part of the capital.

Although the Army has assured people that normalcy will return soon to Zimbabwe, defiant Mugabe said on November 16 that he is Zimbabwe’s only legitimate ruler. He also refused to accept offers of a graceful exit.

Amid political turmoil, the main opposition ‘Movement for Democratic Change’ party has expressed hope that parliamentary democracy will soon replace the authoritarian rule. The party also backed the military intervention, stressing that the Army will help Zimbabwe become a ‘stable, democratic and progressive’ nation. International charity Oxfam, too, has expressed hope that democracy in Zimbabwe would hold after the coup.

On Thursday, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) – an inter-governmental organisation headquartered in Gaborone, Botswana – said that the South African envoys would soon meet President Mugabe and the top Zimbabwean defence personnel before reporting back to Community. South African Communications Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane said that a SADC delegation arrived in Harare to meet President Mugabe. “Thereafter, they will proceed to brief President Joao Lourenco as the chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics‚ Defence and Security,” she told the press.

Right now, the million-dollar question is: (after coup) will Zimbabwe see democracy or dictatorship?

Koushik Das, based in the Indian capital of New Delhi, is a senior news editor with more than 15 years of experience. He also runs a blog - Boundless Ocean of Politics. E-Mail: [email protected]