The political situation in Zimbabwe continues to evolve, and it is not completely clear whether there has been a military coup or not.  Beyond the statements from the military that it has intervened, it is also not clear exactly who is in charge of the political reins of power. In announcing its intervention, the military is choosing its words very carefully. In part, this is because of governance norms established by the African Union that have taken a hardline against unconstitutional changes of government, particularly those led by the military. But it is also because many in Zimbabwe want their military to uphold the constitution, and to stay in the barracks and out of politics. Even as some Zimbabweans cheer the apparent removal of President Mugabe after 37 years in power, just as many seem concerned about the military’s intervention in politics in this manner, and what this portends for the future.

The apparent intervention has led to a mixture of equal measure of euphoria and heightened uncertainty for many in Zimbabwe. Some in Zimbabwe have long alleged that key military leaders were the real power behind President Mugabe’s long stay in power. In this regard, it was not surprising that the current political turmoil was triggered by Mrs. Mugabe’s apparent “out-of-turn” power grab that resulted in the firing of Vice President Mnangagwa, and which prompted the Chief of Army, General Chiwenga, to declare the “need to protect our revolution”, i.e.,  the ZANU-PF liberation struggle. Beyond discomfort with the military’s apparent overstepping of its constitutional role, General Chiwenga’s statement also raised concerns about the military’s ability to provide for the transformative governance needed by the country. There is real fear that military intervention in this context portends more of the same.

If this is a political transition, we all hope that it will be managed peacefully for the sake Zimbabweans, first and foremost, but also for the rest of the southern Africa region. Regional actors can help to move things in the right direction. First and foremost, it is important to convince the military to hand over the reins of political power to civilian hands and return to the barracks as soon as possible. Second, the South African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union should move quickly and work together to use their diplomatic tool-boxes, and take measures to help forestall violence from enveloping any transition.  Zimbabweans deserve the support of a peaceful transition.