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 the 13th of November 2017 and ended on the 18th of December 2017.

The Operation

After 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 several other military generals held a press conference and released a statement warning 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. In a televised address, the army 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. The operation triggered the fall, 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,” .[1]

Civilians' definition of the action

The Zimbabwean locals saw the army's action as a coup, 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.[2]

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.[3]

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 of 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 the 8th of December 2017.

Recalling of Robert Mugabe

Zanu-PF recalled Mugabe from the position of party First Secretary and replaced him with Emmerson Mnangagwa whom the ruling party also reinstated as a Central Committee member. These decisions were made during a special Central Committee meeting held at the party’s headquarters.[4]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. Dhe 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 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 the party's central committee. Other prominent G40 politicians, including, after that, 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 the party and lost his job as the youth league national commissar.
  • Walter Mzembi - Mzembi was expelled from Zanu-PF and he also lost as 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 of the former British colony and protect the rights of all Zimbabwe's 16 million citizens[5]

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 [6]


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 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 is 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 the 18th of December 2017 to announce the end of the operation which had started on the 15 of 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 can 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.[7]


  1. [ https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/14/world/africa/zimbabwe-Mugabe-Mnangagwa-chiwenga.html ], Zimbabwe’s Military, in Apparent Takeover, Says It Has Custody of Mugabe, Published: November 14 2017 , Retrieved: 30 November 2017
  2. [1], 'It's a coup, despite what Zim military says' – analysts, Published: 15 November 2017 , Retrieved: 30 November 2017
  3. [2], Robert Mugabe's grip on Zimbabwe ebbing away after military takes control, Published: 15 November 2017 , Retrieved: 30 November 2017
  4. [ http://www.herald.co.zw/zanu-pf-recalls-pres-mugabe/], Zanu-PF recalls Pres Mugabe Published:20 November 2017, Retrieved: 30 November 2017
  5. [ https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/24/mnangagwa-the-crocodile-sworn-in-as-Zimbabwe-president.html], Mnangagwa, the "Crocodile," sworn in as Zimbabwe president, Published: 24 November 2017 , Retrieved: 30 November 2017
  6. [ https://twitter.com/ProfJNMoyo/status/953567482094243840 ], , Published: 24 January 2018 , Retrieved: 25 January 2018
  7. [3], , Published: 20 Feb 2018 , Retrieved: 20 Feb 2018