The Oasis Reporters
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
There seem to have been an open rift between the military and Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state who has ruled since independence from white minority rule on April 18, 1980. The military has been a key pillar of his power.
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.
A series of tweets from @zanuPF reveal that the country’s vice president who was recently sacked by President Robert Mugabe has taken control of the the party, and by extension, leadership.
“We wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover,” the army statement said. “We are only targeting criminals around (Mugabe) who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice.”
Overnight, The Associated Press saw armed soldiers assaulting passers-by in Harare, as well as soldiers loading ammunition near a group of four military vehicles. The explosions could be heard near the University of Zimbabwe campus. The developments came several hours after the AP saw three armored personnel carriers in a convoy heading toward an army barracks just outside the capital.
Mugabe last week fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and accused him of plotting to take power, including through witchcraft. Mnangagwa, who enjoyed the military’s backing and once was seen as a potential president, fled the country and said he had been threatened. Over 100 senior officials allegedly supporting him have been listed for disciplinary measures by a faction associated with Mugabe’s wife, Grace.
The first lady appeared to be positioned to replace Mnangagwa as one of the country’s two vice presidents at a special conference of the ruling party in December, leading many in Zimbabwe to suspect that she could succeed her husband. Grace Mugabe is unpopular with some Zimbabweans because of lavish spending as many struggle, and four people accused of booing her at a recent rally were arrested.
On Monday, army commander Constantino Chiwenga issued an unprecedented statement saying purges against senior ruling ZANU-PF party officials, many of whom like Mnangagwa fought for liberation, should end “forthwith.”
Claire Phipps of the Guardian says so far, she knows that Zimbabwean defence forces have seized control of state broadcaster ZBC overnight, screening a statement declaring that it is “targeting criminals” around the president, Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe himself, and his family, are “safe and sound”, army spokesman Major General SB Moyo said.
Mugabe has not appeared in public or issued a statement. It is unclear whether he is in the custody of the military.
In a statement broadcast overnight, Moyo insisted: “We wish to make this abundantly clear this is not a military takeover of government.
What the Zimbabwe Defence Forces is doing is to pacify a degenerating political, social and economic situation in our country, which if not addressed may result in violent conflict”.
But the statement made it clear the army had acted in response to a purge of Zanu-PF members, including the vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was sacked by Mugabe last week, and had been angered by the failure of state media to report on a warning issued by the army chief General Constantino Chiwenga on Monday:
“The situation in our country has moved to another level … To members of the Zimbabwe defence forces, all leave is cancelled and you are all to return to your barracks with immediate effect…Let it be clear we intend to address the human security threats in our country. Therefore any provocation will be met with an appropriate response”.
Armoured vehicles and troops have on Wednesday morning blocked roads in central Harare around government buildings and the presidential residence.
There are reports that at least one minister, finance minister Ignatius Chombo, has been detained by the military. Chombo is a leading member of the G40 faction of the ruling Zanu-PF party, led by Mugabe’s wife Grace, who is vying to succeed the 93-year-old president. This faction is believed to be the target of the military’s action.