As he was driven back to his opulent palace in Harare on Tuesday, surrounded by bodyguards in military fatigues and wearing motorcycle helmets, Robert Mugabe had no reason to suspect that his 37-year rule was about to end.
Having been in power since 1980, Mugabe — not to mention Grace, his high-handed, grasping second wife — thought he was invincible. Just days earlier, he beamed with satisfaction at a ceremony to change the name of Zimbabwe's main airport to the Robert Mugabe International Airport.
He believed he would be president of the former British colony until he died, and had once proclaimed 'not even God' wanted his murderous reign to end. His wife, meanwhile, had called for a Mugabe family 'dynasty' to run the country for ever.
Slumbering: Mugabe, 93, at a graduation ceremony on Friday
But what neither knew that sunny afternoon was that Mugabe's loyal presidential guard had been swapped for military personnel who were in league with his enemies — the very generals who had previously been loyal to the despot since he came to power after the bush war against white rule.
The first sign of any trouble was when Mugabe's convoy arrived at his home in a suburb of the capital city, and the men accompanying him arrested the security officers on duty there.
The 93-year-old president was then hustled into the house and, a short time later, the man in charge of Zimbabwe's armed forces arrived to break some rather bad news to Mugabe.
A fearsome individual known for his volcanic temper, General Constantino Chiwenga is one of the so-called 'Dirty Half Dozen' — six sinister military and intelligence chiefs whose junta has kept Mugabe in office for decades, terrorising opponents and rigging elections.
Bluntly, Chiwenga told Mugabe he was under arrest. Without uttering a word, Mugabe promptly collapsed to the floor.
'He was in shock, and collapsed when he realised what was happening,' one coup plotter told me. 'He had to be resuscitated and revived. He could not believe what was happening at first.'
Grace — with whom the president had begun an affair after spotting her in his typing pool when he was still married to his first wife — was terrified. She was hysterical and burst into tears.
According to one who was told about the unfolding events: 'She's been in a mess ever since — in tears and mentally gone. She begged to be allowed to fly out to Malaysia [where she has millions in investments].
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