Zimbabwe’s “coup d’état”: How to stay Safe

Zimbabwe’s “coup d’état”: How to stay Safe

- in Risk Management
Photograph: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

Zimbabwe’s  military declared on national television that it had temporarily taken control of the country, in what it says is not a coup but a move to cleanse the country of “criminals” around the head of state.

However scenarios such as these often result in civilian and or military casualties, so Risk & Insurance Zimbabwe thought it prudent enough to give some TIPS on how to stay SAFE during the “coup d’état”. Here are some safety tips to consider:

1. Stay indoors

The most important thing to do during this “coup” is to stay out of range of soldiers. The best safety strategy is to stay indoors and stay away from windows in case there might be political violence. In case of violence or conflict move to the innermost area of your building, or the lowest level of the building. We know that many people have gone to work and business is normal in the Capital but in case there is conflict and you are already at your offices, please do not go out of your offices until the conflict is over. If there is violence and conflict you are outside, then go inside a building right away.

Also do not forget to have a medical kit in the house, enough food supplies for a week in case things go south, and emergency contact numbers. 

Some embassies are already warning their citizens to stay indoors. If you want to be safe please stay indoors.

2. Check social media to find out what is happening.

Many people are relying on social media for updates and information. And a lot of information is being posted on social media about the events unfolding in the country.   So social media may be the best place to look for information on what is happening. Most people, journalist, social commentators and media houses are posting frequent updates during the coup, so constantly check your social media accounts regularly to keep yourself informed. You can also post updates to keep your friends and family informed.

However take note that not all information being passed through social media sites is true and factual always confirm authenticity before spreading rumors and hearsay.

3. Follow media for updates on what is happening.

While its very unfortunate that the local media have been scooped by foreigners on events that are currently happening in the country. Foreign media houses, newspapers and tv stations are giving live updates on the events that are currently happening in Zimbabwe. UK based The Guardian has a handle which is giving live updates on the situation in Zimbabwe those who have DSTV subscriptions can tune in to Channel 404.

Staying up to date with the media will help you identify  areas to avoid which a very important safety precaution. You can use your phone or home computer to get updates from reliable media sources. Local papers like The Herald and Pindula News are also giving live updates.

Keep in mind that the media reportage on the situation in Zimbabwe is mainly dominated by foreign media which are not on the ground, and being driven by social media reports which might overhype the situation or try to put a spin on things. Do not rely on media as as your only source of information verify with friends and family who are on the ground.

4. Listen to the local authorities.

Although the government has not said anything as far as events in the country are unfolding the military in its media statement early this morning tasked the Members of Parliament and the chiefs to maintain peace and to provide leadership and direction in our communities.

To our Members of Parliament: Your legislative role is of paramount importance for peace and stability in this country and it is our desire that a dispensation is created that allows you to serve your respective political constituencies according to democratic tenets.

To our respected Traditional leaders: You are the custodians of our culture, customs, traditions and heritage and we request you to provide leadership and direction to your communities for the sake of unity and development in our country

So if you are out and about in your respective communities and the local authorities advise you to avoid certain parts of your rural community, city or town it is best to listen to them.

Do not even try to enter an area that the authorities would have advised against. Go where they tell you to go. The military warned that “Any provocation will be met with an appropriate response,” so, avoid being defiant or combative towards the military. Even if you are in favor of the events unfolding the country do not try to be overzealous and antagonize the authorities. You might get arrested or put yourself in unnecessary endangerment.

5. If You Must Go Out
Steer clear of heavily populated areas and crowds, remember the Zanu Pf youth secretary, in yesterday’s press statement, Chipanga said:

…Defending the revolution and our Leader and President is an ideal we live for and if need be it is a principle we are prepared to die for. From the outset, we would like to make it clear that we have every respect for the Armed Forces in this country and cherish their role in protecting and safeguarding the count, and its revolution. We are however totally against the bulk of the press statement issued by General Chiwenga yesterday.

so it is wise to avoid demonstrations, groups and any other situation where there are lots of people. These situations can easily escalate into violence so it is best you stay way from crowds, if you spot a crowd of people, turn away and take a different route to your destination.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has updated its travel advice to British nationals and has warned them to stay indoors and to avoid all demonstrations and rallies.

Due to the uncertain political situation in Harare, including reports of unusual military activity, we recommend British nationals currently in Harare to remain safely at home or in their accommodation until the situation becomes clearer. Please continue to monitor our travel advice and embassy social media accounts for updates.

You should avoid political activity, or activities which could be considered political, including political discussions in public places and criticism of the President. You should avoid all demonstrations and rallies. The authorities have sometimes used force to suppress demonstrations.

6. Keep in mind that coups are often short-lived.

History has shown that while coups are unpredictable, they are more often than not short lived. The coup will either be successful and a new government rule will be instituted, or the coup will fail and the government will remain the same. However, the military is determined to see their changes through, in a statement published earlier in the morning the Military has said that:

“As soon as we have accomplished our mission we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.”

The word soon is indefinite and while it might be frightening that the military has taken over the best safety option is to wait it (the coup) out.

7. Leave the country or go to a safer region if the conflict continues.

The situation on the ground is currently peaceful but if the event turn to be violent and the conflict between the Military and the G40 is protracted it will be safe to leave the country or travel to a safer cities where there is no military presence.

However before you make any travelling arrangements make sure that it is safe to travel. Local authorities, media reports, social media updates may give you some tips on safe routes and times to travel. There may be roads that are blocked off or that are unsafe, so make sure that you know what roads to avoid as well.

8. Contact your embassy or consulate.

For foreign nationals who are currently residing or working in the country and for tourists currently visiting the country, if they can they might want to leave the country or get in contact with their home country’s embassy or consulate for advice and assistance.

Foreigners must check the official social media handles for their countries and their home country’s website for information on what to do and how to contact their embassy or consulate.

The US embassy in Zimbabwe has already warned its citizens in the country to “shelter in place” due to “ongoing political uncertainty”. and the UK embassy in Harare also urged British citizens to stay indoors during the ‘uncertain situation’.

9. Take out insurance 

The least but not least safety tip is to take out insurance. Most home and comprehensive motor vehicle covers do not cater for damages caused by acts of political violence, make sure you take out insurance cover for your property and assets that covers for damages caused by acts of terrorism, riots or political violence. Political Violence Cover often comes as an add on to your insurance cover or you can take out Political Risk Insurance.

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