The Zimbabwe Defence Forces’ popular political and socio-economic stabilisation intervention was “totally peaceful” and cannot be termed a coup, an African Union official has said.

In an interview with Russia’s Sputnik International news website last week, AU Commissioner for Peace and Security Mr Smail Chergui said former President Robert Mugabe had willingly resigned.

He said: “It was just a dialogue between the leadership of the country and the president, and they convinced him that maybe some of the actions taken, including around him and his immediate surrounding, were not good for the country, and he accepted to submit his resignation willingly.

“It’s not a coup according to African Union rules because we are the ones to declare if someone has made a coup and then apply sanctions. We are neither in a crisis in Zimbabwe nor in an extraordinary situation.”

On November 13, 2017, the ZDF embarked on Operation Restore Legacy, an intervention targeting a clique around Cde Mugabe which was fomenting political instability and economic sabotage.

The general citizenry responded to the operation warmly, imploring Sadc and the AU not to intervene and “let a new dispensation set in”.

Multitudes converged on Harare on November 18, marching in unison with veterans of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle while interacting cordially with the military.

Zanu-PF’s Central Committee met the following day and recalled Cde Mugabe from both the party and national presidency, replacing him with Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa. Cde Mugabe resigned on November 21 as a joint sitting of Parliament deliberated on a motion to impeach him.

President Mnangagwa was subsequently sworn in as Zimbabwe’s second executive President on November 24 and endorsed as Zanu-PF’s President and First Secretary at a Special Congress on December 15.

On December 18, ZDF Commander General Phillip Valerio Sibanda announced the conclusion of Operation Restore Legacy, saying its objectives had “ to a large extent been achieved”.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission described the operation as “timely” as it prevented anarchy, with no human rights violations reported.

Meeting President Mnangagwa in Pretoria on Thursday, Sadc Chair and South African President Jacob Zuma commended the ZDF for ably handling “a delicate situation”.

Presidential spokesperson Mr George Charamba told journalists after the meeting: “(President Zuma) paid ringing tribute to the Zimbabwe Defence Forces for handling a very delicate situation. He says the army in Zimbabwe behaved in a manner that no one expected and to a point that it was not easy to say: was this a coup or was it not a coup?

“What became very clear is that the region was not dealing with a military issue; it was dealing with a political issue which had invited the involvement of the military. He says let us not run away from it: all our armies are political armies because what came first was politics which then found a gun.”

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