British expats in Zimbabwe playing it cool after coup

Published:  17 Nov at 6 PM
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Tagged: UK, Citizenship, England
British citizens living and working in Zimbabwe are keeping their heads down as the military coup gains strength.

The military’s move took place on Tuesday, with soldiers immediately deployed to place 93-year old president Robert Mugabe under house arrest. Although an army spokesperson later denied rumours of a coup and cited the targeting of criminal elements as the cause of the military action, armed soldiers are patrolling the streets of Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare.

To date, no casualties have been reported, and expats familiar with Zimbabwe’s political structure are certain Mugabe’s rule is well and truly over. At present, some 20,000 Britons are still living in the troubled country, and are keeping a low profile until the situation becomes clearer.

Chair of the UK’s parliamentary group on Zimbabwe Kate Hoey confirmed Mugabe’s tyrannical reign has ended, but considers vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa is likely to be just as bad or even worse. Mnangagwa is the army’s favourite for succession, with Mugabe favouring his universally unpopular wife, Grace, and the split is believed to have spurred the military takeover.

Belfast Alliance councillor Kate Nicholl was born in Zimbabwe and is worried about her family and friends’ safety should the coup turn violent. She believes Grace Mugabe has fled the country, adding Mnangagwa is feared by the majority of Zimbabweans for his violent history of torture, massacres in the 1980s, imprisonment and election rigging. The coup, she says, seems to be just one tyrant taking over from another, although Mugabe may be kept on as a figurehead.

After contacting her relatives in the country, Nicholl told reporters local people are calm but very unsettled, as they have no idea what’s going down. Expats are staying out of it for now, keeping in touch with the situation by watching foreign news channels and social media activity. Change, she believes, has to come from the people themselves, who’ve had a very hard time under Mugabe, and change via a military coup is unlikely to bring any benefits for anyone except the military leaders.
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