The military in Zimbabwe on Wednesday said it had temporarily taken control of the country to “target criminals” around the president, Robert Mugabe, amid high tension and reports of explosions in the capital Harare.
Soldiers have sealed access to parliament, government offices and courts in Harare, residents said. Access to the president’s official residence was also blocked by troops.
A military spokesman, Maj Gen SB Moyo made an announcement on state television early on Wednesday saying Mugabe and his family were “safe and sound and their security is guaranteed”. Troops had seized the network’s offices late on Tuesday night.
Moyo said the army was targeting “criminals around” Mugabe, who were “committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in order to bring them to justice”.
The takeover comes following a bitter battle over who will succeed 93-year-old Mugabe.
Emerson Mnangagwa, the veteran vice president and former spy chief who has strong support among many in Zimbabwe’s armed forces, was unceremoniously fired last week.
The move opened the road to power open to Grace Mugabe, the president’s 53-year-old wife, and a rival faction within the ruling Zanu-PF party.
Insisting this was not a military takeover, Moyo said “as soon as [the armed forces] are done the situation will come to normalcy”.
“We urge you to remain calm and limit unnecessary movement. However, we encourage those who are employed and those with essential business in the city to continue their normal activities as usual,” he said.
Moyo said the army had acted because the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation had been ordered not to broadcast a statement from the military on Monday and “the situation in our country has moved to another level”.
Cancelling all leave for members of the military, he urged the security forces to “cooperate for the good of our country”. He warned “any provocation will be met with an appropriate response”.
Following the speech, Zimbabwe’s military detained finance minister Ignatius Chombo. Chombo was a leading member of the so-called ‘G40’ faction of the ruling Zanu-PF party, led by Grace Mugabe.
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Author: Alfred Akuki