Security Update: Zimbabwe
Location: Harare, Zimbabwe
Initially hailed as a progressive African leader, Robert Mugabe and his ruling party, the Zanu-PF, have come under intense scrutiny in the last two decades. Due to controversial economic policies and land reforms, the country experienced a 53% reduction in productivity and record unemployment which eventually reached 80% by 2006. By 2009 the Zimbabwean Dollar hit an inflation rate of 79,600,000,000%. Hyperinflation continued until Zimbabwe finally abandoned its currency in 2015 in favor of the US Dollar. As the country relied on a foreign currency, banks were forced to limit the amount of cash withdrawals. This led to rioting in mid-2017 as citizens were outraged at the decreased withdrawal limit.
Mugabe, now 93 years-old, is ever closer to the end of his natural life and presidency. He has not chosen a successor nor are any processes in place should Mugabe pass away. This void has caused an increased amount of mistrust within the ranks including those supporting Emmerson Mnangagwa, a Zanu-PF leader who was recently fired from his position as Zimbabwe's Vice President by Mugabe. To further exacerbate the issue, Grace Mugabe, President Mugabe's wife, has made a public bid for power. The military, which has supported her husband since the civil war, feel that Grace is ill-equipped to be President. The situation is further complicated as Robert Mugabe has now backed his wife's power run. The military has acted to control the inevitable power shift.
On November 14th the Zimbabwean military entered Harare with heavily armored vehicles and encircled the House of Parliament and President Mugabe's residence. With no violence, the military placed President Mugabe under house arrest. Major General Sibusiso Moyo publicly announced, on a seized state-owned television station, that the actions were not a "coup" and assured the safety of President Mugabe and his family. However, it seems likely that this action will force President Mugabe's resignation and potential exile. The country does not have a candidate which is regarded as a natural successor to President Mugabe. If Mugabe is indeed ousted, it is unknown who would take control and if they would be accepted as the country's next leader.
The situation is vague and constantly changing. It is unclear how the following days and months will unfold. Foreign embassies in Harare have closed their doors and instructed their mission personnel to shelter in place. Many roads are blocked, particularly in downtown Harare. Travelers currently in the country should consider evacuation options and shelter in place, avoid traveling on roadways, avoid military checkpoints or patrols, and avoid large gatherings. Travelers with upcoming trips should consider canceling or rescheduling with their travel agent or tour provider.