November 2017 Military Coup

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A military coup code-named Operation Restore Legacy was executed in Zimbabwe in November 2017 and it resulted in the forced resignation of President Robert Mugabe. Mugabe had been the leader of Zimbabwe for thirty-seven years. The coup was led by the military general, Constantino Chiwenga and it installed Emmerson Mnangagwa as president.

The operation started on 13 November 2017 and ended on 18 December 2017.

See History of Zimbabwe Timeline.


  • 13 Nov - Constantino Chiwenga call press conference. Warns politicians.
  • 15 Nov - Television address. ZNA targeting criminals around President Mugabe. Launch of Operation Restore Legacy.
  • 18 Nov - Mass street demonstrations in Harare.
  • 19 Nov - Zanu PF expels Mugabe as party leader and tells him step aside or face impeachment. In television speech he does not announce his resignation as expected.
  • 20 Nov - Zanu PF Central Committee says it will begin impeachment proceedings. Mnangagwa says he will return to Zimbabwe shortly.
  • 21 Nov - Impeachment begins. Interrupted so Mugabe can read his resignation speech. Impeachment continues with joint Senate and House of Assembly sitting. Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Mudenda, announces Mugabe's resignation.
  • 22 Nov - Mnangagwa emerges from hiding and returns to Zimbabwe.
  • 24 Nov - Mnangagwa sworn in as President.
  • 18 Jan - Elections announced, in four to five months time.
  • 14 Feb - Morgan Tsvangirai dies of cancer.


The Operation

On 13 November 2017, following the dismissal of Emmerson Mnangagwa from the post of Vice President of Zimbabwe and from Zanu PF days later, the Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Constantino Chiwenga, and sixty other generals (except ZRP head, Augustine Chihuri) held a press conference and released a statement. This warned that the military would not hesitate to step in to solve the problems in Zanu PF that had resulted in a purge of Zanu PF members with a liberation war background. [2] The ZNA set in motion a military operation and told the nation that the army was “targeting criminals around former President Mugabe, who were committing crimes that were causing social and economic suffering.

On the morning of 14 November, the Zanu-PF Youth League, under the leadership of Kudzai Chipanga released a statement that said they were prepared to die defending the legitimate presidency of Robert Mugabe: Defending the revolution and our Leader and President is an ideal we live for and if need be it is a principle we are prepared to die for. [3]

Later that afternoon several social media and traditional media outlets reported that several army tanks had been cited in, around and on highways leading to Harare.[4]

On the same afternoon Zanu PF party’s national spokesperson, Simon Khaya Moyo issued a statement accusing Chiwenga of treasonous intentions. Khaya Moyo said in the statement that Chiwenga's utterances were meant to "incite insurrection and violent challenge to the Constitutional Order."[5]

On the night of 14 November, the military took over ZBC. On the same night, Ignatius Chombo, Augustine Chihuri and Kudzai Chipanga were reportedly arrested. Chombo's arrest involved a gunfight between his guards and the ZDF. Early morning on 15 November Major-General Sibusiso Moyo broadcast a statement assuring Zimbabweans that Mugabe and his family were safe and that it was not a coup but a process of targeting criminal elements surrounding Mugabe.

On the afternoon of 15 November, Presidents Jacob Zuma (South Africa) and Muhammadu Buhari (Nigeria) separately called for calm and peaceful engagement in Zimbabwe. Zuma also said he had spoken to Robert Mugabe who had confirmed he was confined to his house. Zuma assured all that a SADC envoy would visit Zimbabwe to meet Robert Mugabe and the ZDF.

The ZDF operation triggered the fall of Robert Mugabe, as citizens marched in solidarity with the army's action. The citizen's protests increased pressure on Mugabe who resigned a few hours after the start of his impeachment proceedings.


Military's definition of the action

The Military claimed that the operation was not a coup but an initiative which was aimed at restoring discipline within the rank and profile of the ruling party Zanu-PF through targeting criminal elements surrounding the former president Robert Mugabe. The Army accused the criminal elements of sowing seeds of destruction in the party causing social, economic and political uncertainty in the country. Major General S B Moyo reinforced the army's stance via a television statement, he assured the nation and the world that the then president and his family were safe and that this was not a military takeover but a move meant to restore order in the country. “We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice,” .[6]

Civilians' definition of the action

Zimbabwean locals saw the army's action as a coup, and political analysts described the Zimbabwean military's house arrest of President Robert Mugabe, his wife Grace, and other top state officials as a coup d'état, despite military leaders denying that it has usurped the presidency. [7]

Regional definition of the action

The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) held an emergency TROIKA meeting in Gaborone Botswana to discuss the political situation in Zimbabwe. The meeting resolved that member countries monitor the situation in Zimbabwe as the regional bloc was against military takeovers of legitimately elected governments.

International Community's definition of the action

The International community defined this action as an apparent military take over of the Zimbabwean government. In the capital Harare, as uncertainty over the political situation grew, foreign embassies warned their citizens to stay indoors. The United States Embassy said on its website that “as a result of the ongoing political uncertainty, the ambassador instructed all employees to remain home until the situation of what seems to be a coup settles down. Zimbabwe remained in political limbo a day and a half after the military takeover that appears to have put an end to Robert Mugabe’s 37-year grip on power. [8]

Outcomes of the Operation

Arrest of Alleged Criminals

  • Ignatius Chombo - Zimbabwe’s military detained former Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo after seizing power in an attempt to root out “criminals” around President Robert Mugabe who it said were causing social and economic suffering. Chombo was held in military custody for 8 days before being released and dropped off at his house only to be arrested again minutes after being set free. The Former Zimbabwe finance minister was charged with corruption, including trying to defraud the central bank in 2004. He was denied bail and remanded in custody pending trial
  • Kudzanayi Chipanga - The former Zanu-PF youth league boss was detained by the army, after reading an apology to the ZDF and General Chiwenga on television. Prior to his detention and Public apology, Chipanga had issued a statement in defiance of the army's directive. He was taken to court after Mugabe had resigned and was charged with kidnapping and communicating falsehoods to the detriment of the (ZDF).
  • Hamandishe - Hamandishe was Chipanga 's co-accused and faced charges of kidnapping. He was denied bail in his first court appearance and remanded in custody to 8 December 2017.

Recalling of Robert Mugabe

Zanu PF recalled Mugabe from the position of party First Secretary and replaced him with Emmerson Mnangagwa whom Zanu PF also reinstated as a Central Committee member. These decisions were made during a special Central Committee meeting held at that party’s headquarters. [9]The Central Committee is Zanu PF’s highest decision-making organ outside Congress' meeting was attended by 201 members out of 300 members.

Expulsions from Zanu PF

  • Grace Mugabe - Grace Mugabe was recalled from the position of Secretary for the Women’s League of Zanu PF for promoting hate speech, divisiveness and assuming roles and powers not delegated to her office. She was expelled from the party.
  • Mphoko - Mphoko was expelled from the party and also lost his job as the Vice President of Zimbabwe when Emmerson Mnangagwa assumed the presidency.
  • Jonathan Moyo - The Zanu PF central committee recommended and endorsed the expulsion of Moyo from the party after he was accused of destabilizing and dividing the party, fanning factionalism, among other charges. He was also expelled from Parliament as Tsholotsho North Legislator.
  • Saviour Kasukuwere - On 19 November 2017, Kasukuwere was expelled from Zanu PF by their central committee. He was also expelled from Parliament as Mt Darwin South legislator.
  • Ignatius Chombo - Chombo was expelled as the party's national chairman. He was also expelled from parliament as the Zvimba North Legislator
  • Kudzanayi Chipanga - Chipanga was expelled from the party and lost his Job as the party's youth league boss. He was also expelled from Parliament as the Makoni West Legislator.
  • Hamandishe - He was expelled from Zanu PF and lost his job as the youth league national commissar.
  • Walter Mzembi - Mzembi was expelled from Zanu PF and lost a ministerial post when the cabinet was dissolved by the incoming president.
  • Paul Chimedza - He was expelled from the party and lost his job as the Masvingo Provincial Affairs Ministry.

Mnangagwa assuming Presidency

The operation mounted pressure on Mugabe's regime which forced him to resign. Through weakening Mugabe's power the operation managed to facilitate the reinstatement of Emmerson Mnangagwa who had been sacked from his post as Vice President of Zimbabwe and expelled from Zanu PF. A central committee resolution gave Mnangagwa his power back which saw him assuming the role of the first secretary of Zanu PF and President of the party.

After Mugabe's resignation, Mnangagwa became the 3rd President of Zimbabwe and was sworn in on 24 November 2017. Taking his oath of office, the 75-year-old former security chief, vowed to uphold the constitution and protect the rights of all Zimbabwe's 16 million citizens. [10]

Alleged Deaths and Crimes

It was alleged by Jonathan Moyo that during the Operation Restore Legacy one CIO/DIO from Harare, Peter Munetsi was killed, among others. Moyo further highlighted that many others were killed, tortured, raped or displaced internally or externally , property was looted or destroyed while guns were stolen. [11]


Several top government officials were forced into exile. These include:

  • Phelekezela Mphoko - then the other Vice President. He was believed to be a member of the G40 and was away in Japan on official duty when the military coup happened. Later he returned to the region but stayed in Botswana for some weeks. He later returned to Zimbabwe in December 2019.
  • Jonthan Moyo - He was believed to be in Kenya.
  • Saviour Kasukuwere - Former Local Government Minister, Kasukuwere was out in exile until May 2018 when he returned.
  • Patrick Zhuwao

End of the operation

The Zimbabwe Defence forces held a press conference on 18 December 2017 to announce the end of the operation which had started on 15 November 2017.

Endorsement by the African Union

The African Union vowed to work with Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government and was keen to learn ways it could support it. African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat mentioned the continental body's decision to work with the administration. The former minister in Robert Mugabe’s government, Jonathan Moyo, implored the African Union to investigate the new government for allegedly removing Robert Mugabe in a military coup in November 2017. [12]


  1. [Supplement to The Herald Zimbabwe timeline & chronology of events], Supplement to The Herald, Published: 18 April 2019, Retrieved: 7 December 2021
  2. Updated: General Chiwenga's Statement Warning Zanu-PF To Stop Purging Liberation War Stalwarts, Warns Military Will Not Hesitate To Step In, Pindula, Published: 13 November 2017, Retrieved: 9 June 2023
  3. Maveriq, Don’t Hide Behind The Barrel Of A Gun: Zanu- PF Youth League Tells General Chiwenga, Pindula News, Published:14 November 2017, Retrieved: 15 November 2017
  4. Army tanks seen in and around Harare after Chiwenga warns Mugabe and Zanu-PF, Pindula, Published: 14 November 2017, Retrieved: 9 June 2023
  5. Tayana, UPDATED: “Govt will never succumb to any threats”: Zanu-PF responds to Chiwenga’s warning, Pindula News, Published:14 November 2017, Retrieved: 15 November 2017
  6. [ ], Zimbabwe’s Military, in Apparent Takeover, Says It Has Custody of Mugabe, Published: November 14 2017 , Retrieved: 30 November 2017
  7. [1], 'It's a coup, despite what Zim military says' – analysts, Published: 15 November 2017 , Retrieved: 30 November 2017
  8. [2], Robert Mugabe's grip on Zimbabwe ebbing away after military takes control, Published: 15 November 2017 , Retrieved: 30 November 2017
  9. [], Zanu PF recalls Pres Mugabe Published:20 November 2017, Retrieved: 30 November 2017
  10. [], Mnangagwa, the "Crocodile," sworn in as Zimbabwe president, Published: 24 November 2017 , Retrieved: 30 November 2017
  11. [ttps://], , Published: 24 January 2018 , Retrieved: 25 January 2018
  12. [3], , Published: 20 Feb 2018 , Retrieved: 20 Feb 2018

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