It’s not a coup, it’s a kiss goodbye

On Wednesday 15 November 2017, Zimbabweans woke up to a camouflaged man on state television announcing in a calm and measured voice that they had not staged a coup, but President Robert Mugabe and the first family were in the hands of the military and the defence forces were dealing with criminal elements in the ruling party.

The nation waited with quiet expectation as reports of explosions in the night filtered through our twitter feeds and Whatsapp photos of the raided homes of government ministers and their stashed fortunes circulated wildly. Two days later the leader of the War Veterans Association, Christopher Mutsvangwa, called for a solidarity march in support of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.

Tentatively at first and then gathering strength in numbers people from across the country heeded his call, streaming into the historic Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfields, Harare, and then towards State House to call for the President’s resignation.

Hundreds of thousands of people from all races, ages, cultures, ethnicities and religions came together peacefully carrying flags and messages as they marched. For the first time in decades people expressed themselves freely in public without fear of retribution.

And as euphoria spread through the city, country and diaspora, Zimbabweans took full advantage of the opportunity to make light of their leaders and political situation with one prescient message declaring, “It’s not a coup, it’s a kiss goodbye.”

All images © Davina Jogi

A combi taxi performs a burn-out around soldiers trying to direct traffic at the intersection in front of ZANU PF headquarters
A man expresses his feelings about President Robert Mugabe publicly in a manner that could previously have landed him in prison. Just a week before, a young American woman had been arrested for a defamatory tweet about the President.
People leave Zimbabwe Grounds in Highfields after being directed to march to State House. The sign implores the soldiers to end Mugabe's rule.
A woman waves from a car streaming a Zimbabwean flag. Cars, busses, and trucks overflowed with people as they navigated their way across the city.
Young men run and jump as they excitedly join the crowds heading to Highfields. The Zimbabwe Grounds are famous for having hosted Robert Mugabe's "Star Rally" in 1980 during which he predicted a landslide victory for his ZANU party. His prophecy came true and he has been at the head of government ever since.
Thousands of people flow down Leopold Takawira Street towards the city centre. In a country that was limited to expressing itself through social media, hashtags were quickly adopted as a call to action.
A woman dances in the middle of Fourth Street as a wedding party gets stuck in the crowd.
Energy Chiduwa shouts for people on the street to join the march to State House as he rides on the roof of a car headed down Bank Street in Harare's CBD.
Soldiers fool around in the back of a military vehicle as they ride through the streets during the march. Some military personnel posed for selfies with the crowd while others maintained a more guarded distance in order to carry out their duties.
The army established a cordon in the avenues around State House and calmly and effectively controlled the exuberant crowd.
An armed soldier keeps an eye on the crowd. Despite the heavy weaponry and excited atmosphere there was not one incidence of violence recorded during the march.
Vehicles overflowing with passengers head towards State House. The sign refers to First Lady Grace Mugabe who was expelled from ZANU PF for vulgarities, hate speech and assuming roles she was not entitled to claim. It was her actions that precipitated the military takeover.