Bench Africa are consistently receiving updates from our operators in Southern Africa regarding the political situation in Zimbabwe. We would would like to share with you some of the information we have received.
We would like to assure all our partners that the safety of our guests is of the utmost importance. Bench Africa and our operators are monitoring the Zimbabwe Political situation closely. Hopefully the current status will be resolved quickly and without an effect on people travelling to Zimbabwe or its residents. Bench Africa does not currently have any passengers travelling in and around Harare.
Thursday 23rd November 2017
What a week it's been! A lot can change in 7 days. On 21 November, after a full week of negotiations and "house arrest" Robert Mugabe tendered his resignation at the final hour while lawmakers were debating his impeachment. Zimbabwe, and the world, watched the events closely.
Mugabe was expected to resign on Sunday 19 November when he gave a televised speech to the nation but stunned everyone watching when he didn't, instead stating that he would be residing over the Zanu-PF congress that would be taking place in December. After that, he was given a deadline to resign by 12:00 on Monday 20 November, but that deadline came and went with no news of resignation. On Tuesday 21 November, Zanu-PF introduced the motion to impeach Mugabe to parliament, it was seconded by the opposition and the joint houses of parliament moved to a larger area to start deliberating. The joint houses of parliament were in impeachment proceedings at a conference centre when a letter from Mugabe arrived and was read out to them by the Speaker of parliament stating:
"I Robert Gabriel Mugabe in terms of section 96 (1) of the constitution of Zimbabwe hereby formally tender my resignation as the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe with immediate effect.
My decision to resign is voluntary on my part and arises from my concern for the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe and my desire to ensure a smooth, peaceful and non-violent transfer of power that underpins national security, peace, and stability."
The room, and indeed the nation, erupted in jubilation.
It is expected that the ousted Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa will succeed Mugabe. It is uncertain whether elections will be immediately called or if the original date of July/August 2018 will be kept. We will continue to monitor the situation and update you accordingly.
Throughout this week-long process, tourism and travel to and within the country has remained unaffected. Borders and airports have remained open with all the tourist areas reporting "business as usual".
In Harare, foreigners were advised to stay away from political demonstrations or commenting on politics. There has been a noticeable military presence in Harare over the past week, reportedly to keep the peace as events unfolded. They have now pulled back as the desired result, Mugabe’s resignation, has been achieved.
From the reports that we have received from the operators we are working with on the ground, we expect this situation to remain the same.
It is truly an exciting new era for Zimbabwe and the focus and hope is on rebuilding its economy which suffered greatly under Mugabe's rule. Currently, tourism is a positive source of income for the country that is home to one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World – Victoria Falls, as well as the world's largest manmade lake – Lake Kariba, and many excellent game reserves and national parks –such as Hwange National Park. We are expecting tourism to open up even further in this beautiful country as many more travellers start to feel more positive about visiting a place we have always recognised as an amazing country with so much to offer.
We look forward to a peaceful and prosperous future for the country of Zimbabwe and we will be certain to keep updating you on any further events that affect travellers to the country.
Wednesday, 22 November 2017
Latest update from Smart Traveller
Expect large crowds in city centres following President Mugabe's resignation on 21 November. There continues to be a heightened security presence in Harare. Avoid demonstrations, rallies and large-scale public gatherings as they could turn violent. Also avoid political activity or activities which could be interpreted as political, including political discussions in public places. Monitor the media and other information sources. Reconsider your need to travel to Harare. Exercise a high degree of caution in Zimbabwe overall and pay close attention to the environment.
Monday 20th November 2017
Ross Kennedy, Chief Executive of African Albida Tourism, on Sunday morning said that “while the situation in Zimbabwe continues to dominate the headlines and there have been several peaceful protests in Harare, Bulawayo and some other Zimbabwean towns, Victoria Falls remains calm and everyone, including several thousand international tourists, is going about their business as normal. We are in constant contact with our tourism colleagues and can confirm that access to and from the destination is normal. We shall keep our industry partners and colleagues updated with honest factual appraisals as necessary in line with events unfolding."
President Robert Mugabe was expected to resign in a national address broadcast by the ZBC, however the resignation never materialised and he seems to be hanging on to his power. This comes as a disappointment to many Zimbabweans.
Zimbabwean human rights lawyer, Tinomudaishe Chinyoka, described the address as “profoundly disappointing”.
This after an expedient and seemingly peaceful process, which started on Tuesday last week with the military moving in to secure key sites and persons, progressed at pace through the weekend with the ruling party, ZANU-PF, recalling Robert Mugabe on Sunday as the party leader, and calling for his resignation by midday on Monday or for him to face impeachment.
Presumably the threat is still in force, but for a man who has held on to power for so long, it is likely that the story is not over.
His wife, Grace Mugabe, a powerful political figure, has been expelled from the party along with a number of allied politicians. Zanu-PF politician, Patrick Chinamasa, said on Sunday that Grace had been “divisive” and “assuming roles and powers not delegated to her office”.
Friday 17th November 2017
Please be advised that the situation on the ground in Zimbabwe remains unchanged. It is still business as usual in most of the country. Borders are open and flights are flying in and out of the country. It is important to note however, that immigration, especially when doing road transfers, can take a bit longer than usual.
President Mugabe remains in military custody, Father Fidelis Mukonori, who is close to President Mugabe is acting as a mediator between him and the military. The goal is to have Mugabe step down voluntarily and allow former Vice-President Mnangagwa take over the role in a transitional government until elections are held.
Activities are concentrated in Harare and surrounds; the military is focused on keeping peace. Our operators in Victoria Falls state that one does not notice that anything is different and it’s very much business as usual. Guests are coming into town from Botswana, Livingstone and Hwange and there are no roadblocks along the way.
Thursday 16th November 2017
Our operators on the ground in Victoria Falls report no changes, threats or incidences in the Victoria Falls area and close to border crossings, Hwange, Kariba and Mana Pools.
During the course of last night (14th November, 2017), the control of The Republic of Zimbabwe has been assumed by the Zimbabwe Military Defence Force. During this period the Zimbabwe Military has assured all Zimbabweans that this is not a “coup” and as such has declared its respect for the constitution of Zimbabwe and that of the SADC charter of zero tolerance for the removal of a constitutionally elected Government. There has been no report of violence and there is no civil unrest, and despite numerous rumours all airports remain opened and it’s business as usual in resort areas of Zimbabwe, including Victoria Falls.
"We wish to assure the nation that His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, and commander in chief of Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Comrade RG Mugabe, and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed."
"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."
"As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy..."
"To the judiciary, the measures underway are intended to assure that as an independent arm of the state you are able to exercise your independent authority without fear of being obstructed."
- Zimbabwe Major General SB Moyo, Chief of Staff Logistics
This is seen as a reaction to the sudden firing of the Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week.
There are reports that Robert Mugabe is negotiating the release of Grace Mugabe and her removal from the country, while he is preparing to step down. There will be a press conference in Harare tomorrow. Citizens are urged to stay away from Harare CBD until further notice. At the moment the highest military presence is around Mugabe’s residence.
Zimbabwe - Smartraveller advice: Thursday, 16 November 2017
Due to ongoing domestic political tensions and unpredictable security situation in Zimbabwe, we recommend you to reconsider your need to travel to Harare. The Australian Embassy in Harare will be closed on 16 November 2017. Remain indoors and be aware of your surroundings. There is a heightened security presence in Harare, including armoured vehicles. Avoid demonstrations, rallies and large-scale public gatherings as they could turn violent. Also avoid political activity or activities which could be interpreted as political, including political discussions in public places. Monitor the media and other information sources. Australians in need of urgent consular assistance in Zimbabwe should call the 24 hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305. Reconsider your need to travel to Harare. Exercise a high degree of caution in Zimbabwe overall and pay close attention to the environment.
Zimbabwe - Smartraveller advice: Thursday, 16 November 2017
In addition, flights are still flying in and out of the country. Fastjet, a carrier between South Africa and Zimbabwe have advised clients to allow extra time for check-in and screening procedures as they may take longer than usual. Roads in and out of the country are unaffected. Roads from Victoria Falls to Hwange National Park are open. Military roadblocks are only outside the major cities.
If you are travelling to Zimbabwe with Bench Africa and have any concerns then please do not hesitate to contact us.