Zimbabwe’s longtime President Robert Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state at 93, is resisting calls to step aside. Placed under military house arrest amid fears he was positioning his wife to succeed him, warned by the ruling party’s Central Committee to go or face impeachment, he stunned the country by remaining defiant in a national address.
Here’s a timeline of events in a whirlwind drama many Zimbabweans after Mugabe’s 37 years in charge never thought they’d see:
Nov. 6: After a campaign of public insults against Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe fires his longtime deputy, later accusing him of plotting to take power via witchcraft. Mnangagwa flees the country.
Nov 13: Army commander Constantino Chiwenga issues a rare public rebuke, saying the military won’t hesitate to “step in” to calm political tensions and criticizing the handling of the once-prosperous southern African nation’s crumbling economy.
Nov. 14: Armored personnel carriers are seen on the outskirts of the capital, Harare. The military moves in overnight, taking control of the state-run broadcaster.
Nov. 15: The military announces that Mugabe is under house arrest and an operation has begun to arrest “criminals” around him who harmed the economy. Unpopular first lady Grace Mugabe, who many feared would replace Mnangagwa and even succeed her husband, disappears from view.
Nov. 16: State-run media publish extraordinary photos of a smiling Mugabe shaking hands with the army commander at the State House amid negotiations on the president’s exit as the military tries to avoid accusations of a coup.
Nov. 17: The army, which continues to refer to Mugabe as president, allows him to make his first public appearance since house arrest. He appears at a graduation ceremony to polite applause.
Nov. 18: The bulk of the capital’s roughly 1.6 million people pour into the streets in an anti-Mugabe demonstration that even days ago would have brought a police crackdown.
Nov. 19: The ruling party Central Committee expels Mugabe as party leader and tells him to step aside as president by noon Monday or face impeachment. In a speech on national television, he does not announce his resignation as expected.
Nov. 20: More protests are vowed as some Zimbabweans question the military’s position.
Text from the AP news story, Zimbabwe’s political drama: What just happened? A timeline.
Photos by Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi and Ben Curtis
Visual artist and Digital Storyteller at The Associated Press