The questions you may be asking about the growing turmoil in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is facing an uncertain future after 93-year-old dictator Robert Mugabe was placed under house arrest by troops supporting ousted vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The move appears to be the culmination of a long-running struggle between Mr Mnangagwa and Mugabe's wife Grace, who both hope to succeed him as Zimbabwe's next leader - but who are they and what does it mean for ordinary Zimbabweans?

Q: Who is Robert Mugabe?

At 93, the Zimbabwean president is the world's oldest head of state and one of its longest serving, taking office in 1987 having already served seven years as prime minister.

He was a key figure in the civil war against white minority rule in what was then Rhodesia, helping force the British to broker a peace deal that spelled the end of the colonial government.

Initially hailed as a revolutionary hero, Mugabe is now widely regarded as a brutal dictator guilty of crimes against humanity, economic mismanagement and perpetuating corruption.

Q: What is Zanu-PF?

The Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) has been in power in Zimbabwe since independence in 1980.

It is described as socialist-conservative in its ideology and champions African nationalism and opposes Western cultural domination and liberalism.

It has pursued populist policies such as the seizure of farms owned by whites for redistribution to black Zimbabweans, although large chunks of land were handed to senior party figures.

Q: Why is Mugabe blamed for Zimbabwe's economic problems?

A series of economic policies took the country to the brink of disaster under Mugabe's rule.

Land grabs from white Zimbabweans decimated established businesses and saw millions of citizens, black and white, emigrate in search of a better life.

Spiralling inflation and an unemployment rate peaking at 50% in the first part of the 21st century left millions of Zimbabweans unable to feed themselves and relying on aid.

Q: Who is Grace Mugabe?

She was the president's secretary and mistress until 1996 when his wife died, and they married in a lavish public ceremony.

The first lady was widely believed to be lining herself up to step into her husband's shoes upon his death and trying to build support among members of Zanu-PF.

Apart from her political ambition, Mrs Mugabe is known for her lavish spending on luxury items, making her deeply unpopular with large swathes of ordinary Zimbabweans.

Q: Who is Emmerson Mnangagwa?

He served as vice-president from 2014 to November this year, but was booted out in a bid to prevent him taking the presidency on Mugabe's death.

The 75-year-old has been part of Mugabe's government since its inception in 1980 and is widely regarded as part of the status quo.

Unlike the first lady, he has apparently succeeded in securing the support of the military.

Q: What is likely to change if Mugabe goes?

Zimbabweans are sceptical that anything will change at ground level if Mugabe is forced to step down and replaced by Mr Mnangagwa, as they are both part of Zanu-PF.

One resident of Harare said: "I don't think I see how anything could possibly be different. If we wanted to see any change we would have to assassinate about 5,000 people all feeding from the same trough."

More in this Section

Investigation after elderly yellow vest protester injured in Nice

US lawmakers await details of Mueller's Russia report

German family to donate millions after hearing extent of Nazi past

Nicola Sturgeon: UK Government has no credible way forward


Seven blissful places to go on a mother-daughter date this weekend

Appliance of Science: Why do we age?

Why anis don’t put all eggs in one basket

The song thrush gets in tune for the upcoming dawn chorus

More From The Irish Examiner