Zimbabwe’s military said on 15 November, it had seized power in a targeted assault on “criminals” around President Robert Mugabe who were causing social and economic suffering.
In an extraordinary statement after long hours of unrest, Zimbabwe’s army early Wednesday, 15 November, sought to reassure the country that “this is not a military takeover” and that President Robert Mugabe was safe and sound. The military said instead it was targeting “criminals around” the president who have sent the nation spinning into economic despair.
Military vehicles blocked roads outside the Zimbabwean parliament Wednesday after army generals denied staging a coup but used state TV to vow to target “criminals” close to President Robert Mugabe. An AFP reporter witnessed cars being turned back by soldiers near parliament, while other military vehicles were stationed outside the offices of the ruling ZANU-PF party in the capital Harare.
Overnight, at least three explosions were heard in Zimbabwe’s capital and military vehicles were seen in the streets after the army commander had threatened to “step in” to calm political tensions over the 93-year-old Mugabe’s possible successor. The ruling party accused the commander of “treasonable conduct.”
Reports indicate that soldiers have taken over Zimbabwe’s ZBC state broadcaster, compounding speculation of a coup against President Robert Mugabe. The Zimbabwe army’s takeover of the state broadcaster and action against some members of President Robert Mugabe’s government has been praised by the chair of the Liberation War Veterans’ Association.
Several cabinet ministers, including local government minister Saviour Kasukuwere and finance minister Ignatius Chombo, and Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwayo, were arrested. There was allegedly a brief gun fight outside Mr Chombo’s house. Zimbabwe finance minister Ignatius Chombo was a leading member of the so-called “G40” faction of the ruling ZANU-PF party, led by Mugabe’s wife Grace, that had been vying to succeed the 93-year-old president – Reuters
Speculation had been mounting throughout the day that a coup was under way against Mr Mugabe, after the head of the armed forces threatened to “step in” over the sacking of an influential vice president.
Chris Mutsvangwa, head of the war veterans’ group issued a statement from Johannesburg praising Army General Constantino Chiwenga for carrying out “a bloodless correction of gross abuse of power”. The statement said the army will return Zimbabwe to “genuine democracy”.
Zimbabwe’s army has urged other security services to “co-operate for the good of our country,” warning that “any provocation will be met with an appropriate response.”
It says that if the country’s degenerating political, social and economic situation is not addressed, it “may result in a violent conflict”. The army insists that this is not a military takeover and that President Robert Mugabe’s security is guaranteed.
Gunfire erupted near Mr Mugabe’s private residence in Harare in the early hours of Wednesday, a witness told AFP. “From the direction of his house, we heard about 30 or 40 shots fired over three or four minutes soon after 2.00 am,” a resident who lives close to Mugabe’s mansion in the suburb of Borrowdale said.
Armed soldiers were assaulting passers-by in the early morning hours in Harare, according to the Associated Press, while officers were seen loading ammunition near a group of four military vehicles. Aggressive soldiers told passing cars to keep moving through the darkness. “Don’t try anything funny. Just go,” one told a Reuters reporter on Harare Drive.
Zimbabwe’s ruling party on Tuesday accused the army chief of “treasonable conduct” after he challenged President Robert Mugabe over the sacking of the vice president, in the latest sign of worsening instability in the country.
The ZANU-PF party criticised General Constantino Chiwenga who had demanded that Mugabe stop purges of senior party figures, including Vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa who was dismissed last week. The youth wing of Zimbabwe’s ruling party accused the military chief on Tuesday of subverting the constitution for threatening to intervene after President Robert Mugabe plunged the country into political crisis by sacking his vice president.
Zimbabwe’s main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says it will oppose any attempt by the army to stage a coup, amid reports of a military convoy moving through the capital, Harare, AFP news agency reports.
A coup would be “undesirable” as it would “bring democracy to a halt” in the southern African state, MDC Shadow Defence Minister Gift Chimanikire told AFP ahead of the convoy sightings. “No one wants to see a coup,” he added.
The U.S. Embassy closed to the public and encouraged citizens to shelter in place, citing “the ongoing political uncertainty through the night.” The British embassy issued a similar warning, citing “reports of unusual military activity.” The UK embassy in Harare also urged British citizens to stay indoors during the ‘uncertain situation’. The governments of South Africa and Zambia on Tuesday warned military leaders in Harare not to take any “unconstitutional” steps to avenge Mr Mnangagwa.
South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) says it will not intervene to end the crisis unfolding in neighbouring Zimbabwe, amid fears that the military could overthrow 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe, the world’s oldest ruler.
It was not clear where Mugabe and his wife were early Wednesday. “Their security is guaranteed,” the army statement said. The president reportedly attended a weekly Cabinet meeting Tuesday. (Source: AFP, BBC, Reuters, Al Jazeera, The Daily Telegraph, News 24)