Zimbabwe's military seizes power, Mugabe safe
Zimbabweâs military seizes power, Mugabe safeReuters
HARARE: Zimbabweâs military said it had seized power in a targeted assault on âcriminalsâ around President Robert Mugabe who were causing social and economic suffering, but gave assurances the 93-year-old leader and his family were âsafe and soundâ.
Zimbabwean soldiers and armored vehicles blocked roads to the main government offices, parliament and the courts in central Harare, a Reuters witness said on Wednesday.
While nearby, Zimbabweans queued for cash outside banks as public taxis ferried commuters to work.
âWe are only targeting criminals around him (Mugabe) who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice,â Zimbabwe Major General SB Moyo, Chief of Staff Logistics, said on national television on Wednesday.
âAs soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.â
The military detained Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo on Wednesday, a government source said. Chombo was a leading member of the so-called âG40â faction of the ruling ZANU-PF party, led by Mugabeâs wife Grace, that had been vying to succeed Mugabe.
Soldiers deployed across the Zimbabwe capital Harare on Tuesday and seized the state broadcaster after Mugabeâs ruling ZANU-PF party accused the head of the military of treason, prompting frenzied speculation of a coup.
Just 24 hours after military chief General Constantino Chiwenga threatened to intervene to end a purge of his allies in Mugabeâs ZANU-PF, a Reuters reporter saw armored personnel carriers on main roads around the capital.
Aggressive soldiers told passing cars to keep moving through the darkness. âDon ât try anything funny. Just go,â one barked at Reuters on Harare Drive.
Two hours later, soldiers overran the headquarters of the ZBC, Zimbabweâs state broadcaster and a principal Mugabe mouthpiece, and ordered staff to leave. Several ZBC workers were manhandled, two members of staff and a human rights activist said.
Shortly afterwards, three explosions rocked the center of the southern African nationâs capital, Reuters witnesses said.
Mugabe, the self-styled âGrand Old Manâ of African politics, has led Zimbabwe for the last 37 years.
In contrast to his elevated status on the continent, Mugabe is reviled in the West as a despot whose disastrous handling of the economy and willingness to resort to violence to maintain power destroyed one of Africaâs most promising states.
The United States and Britain advised their citizens in Harare to stay indoors because of âpolitical uncertainty.â
âUS citizens in Zimbabwe are encouraged to shelter in place until further notice,â the US statement said. The British Foreign & Commonwealth Office statement told ânationals currently in Harare to remain safely at home or in their accommodation until the situation becomes clearer.â
The Southern African nation has been on edge since Monday when Chiwenga, Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, said he was prepared to âstep inâ to end a purge of supporters of sacked vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Only a few months ago, Mnangagwa, a former security chief nicknamed âThe Crocodileâ, was favorite to succeed his life-long political patron but was ousted a week ago to pave the way for Mugabeâs 52-year-old wife Grace to succeed him.
âPolitics over the gunâ
Chiwengaâs unprecedented statement represented a major escalation of the struggle to succeed Mugabe, the only leader Zimbabwe has known since it gained independence from Britain in 1980.
Mugabe chaired a weekly cabinet meeting in the capital on Tuesday, officials said, and afterwards ZANU-PF said it stood by the âprimacy of politics over the gunâ and accused Chiwenga of âtreasonable conduct â¦ meant to incite insurrection.â
The previous day, Chiwenga had made clear the armyâs refusal to accept the removal of Mnangagwa â" like the generals a veteran of Zimbabweâs anti-colonial liberation war â" and the presumed accession of Grace, once a secretary in the government typing pool.
Local government minister Saviour Kasukuwere, a leading figure in her relatively youthful âG40â faction, refused to answer Reuters questions about the situation in Harare. âIâm in a meeting,â he said, before hanging up shortly before midnight.
Army, police and government spokesmen refused to answer numerous phone calls asking for comment.
âDefending our revolutionâ
Neither Mugabe nor Grace have responded in pub lic to Chiwengaâs remarks and state media did not publish his statement. The Herald newspaper posted some of the comments on its Twitter page but deleted them.
The head of ZANU-PFâs youth wing, which openly backs Grace, accused the army chief of subverting the constitution.
âDefending 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,â Youth League leader Kudzai Chipanga said at the partyâs headquarters in Harare.
Grace Mugabeâs rise has brought her into conflict with the independence-era war veterans, who enjoyed privileged status in Zimbabwe until the last two years when they spearheaded criticism of Mugabeâs handling of the economy.
In the last year, a chronic absence of dollars has led to long queues outside banks and an economic and financial collapse that many fear will rival the meltdown of 2007-2008, when inflation topped out at 500 billion percent.
Imported goods are running out and economists say that, by some measures, inflation is now at 50% a month.
According to a trove of intelligence documents reviewed by Reuters this year, Mnangagwa has been planning to revitalize the economy by bringing back thousands of white farmers kicked off their land nearly two decades ago and patching up relations with the likes of the World Bank and IMF.
Whatever the outcome, analysts said the military would want to present their move as something other than a full-blown coup to avoid criticism from an Africa keen to leave behind the Cold War continental stereotype of generals being the final arbiters of political power.
âA military coup is the nuclear option,â said Alex Magaisa, a UK-based Zimbabwean academic. âA coup would be a very hard sell at home and in the international community. They will want to avoid that.â
Back to topSource: Google News