Robert Mugabe’s home is under siege and the Zimbabwean military has declared control of the nation’s capital. It appears the rule of the world’s oldest head of state may be over.
Mugabe, who is 93, is the oldest serving head of state. Queen Elizabeth II of England trails narrowly behind at age 91. If the Mugabe regime does in fact crumble, the mantle will pass to the British monarch.
News of the latest potential feather in the Queen’s bejeweled cap broke earlier on Wednesday, when a military official appeared on Zimbabwean television to tell the country that the army had taken targeted action against criminals, surrounded government ministries, and had sealed off Mugabe’s private residence. An hour after the broadcast, gunfire was reportedly heard from Mugabe’s private mansion in north Harare.
The military move appears to have put an end to brutal infighting between the elderly president’s wife Grace Mugabe and former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was sacked last week in an apparent bid to clear her way to power. Several government ministers have reportedly been arrested. All of those arrested are political allies of Grace Mugabe, who has fled to Namibia.
Responding to the news, British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson condemned Mugabe for his past crimes. “All Britain has ever wanted for Zimbabweans is to be able to decide their own future in free and fair elections. Mugabe’s consuming ambition was always to deny them that choice and this House will remember the brutal litany of his 37 years in office,” he said.
“The elections he rigged, and stole, the murder and torture of his opponents, the illegal seizure of land, leading to the worst hyperinflation in recent history, measured in the billions of percentage points and forcing the abolition of the Zimbabwean dollar.
“[Zimbabweans today] are, per capita, poorer than they were in 1980, leaving many dependent on the health care, education, and food aid provided by DFID (Britain’s Department for International Development),” he added.
Around 20,000 UK citizens currently live in Zimbabwe, but there have been no reports of injuries to any British nationals since the city was seized by the military. Britons visiting, working, or residing in Zimbabwe are being urged by the British Embassy to stay indoors until the “unusual military activity” ceases.
A statement from South African President Jacob Zuma revealed that Mugabe is still alive, although under house arrest. “President Zuma spoke to President Robert Mugabe earlier today, who indicated that he was confined to his home but said that he was fine,” Zuma’s spokesperson said.