ASKiNGRADiO.com| News | Africa | Harare | Nov 15
Zimbabwe’s military said Wednesday it is not carrying out a military takeover of the government and that both longtime President Robert Mugabe and his family are safe.
“We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice,” Major General S.B. Moyo said in a statement delivered on state television. Moyo said as soon as the military had completed “our mission, we expect the situation will return to normalcy.” He also told the judiciary that “measures underway are intended to assure” it remains an “independent arm of the state.”
A government source told reporters that Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo has been detained by the military.
The announcement followed witness reports of at least three explosions and heavy gunfire in the capital city of Harare early Wednesday.
Witnesses also said military vehicles and soldiers were on the streets early Wednesday, hours after soldiers took over Zimbabwe’s state broadcaster, ZBC. Local residents said instead of the usual 11 p.m. newscast, music videos were played instead.
A spokesman at the U.S. embassy in Harare told VOA the streets appeared calm overnight Wednesday and said there were no confirmed sightings of military vehicles. The embassy warned Americans via its web site to “shelter in their residences” and work from home on Wednesday. They said the embassy will be minimally staffed and closed to the public.
Zimbabwe’s ruling party has accused the armed forces chief of “treasonable conduct” after he threatened to intervene in the country’s political affairs.
Tuesday’s statement from the ZANU-PF party was released amid worries that the military might be taking action to oust longtime President Robert Mugabe.
Witnesses reported tanks and armed personnel carriers moving on roads outside the capital; however, Harare was calm and embassies issued no security alerts for their citizens.
A spokesman for the State Department told VOA, “We are aware of the reports and are monitoring the situation.”
The current tension was sparked last week when President Robert Mugabe fired his deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, accusing him of disloyality and plotting to seize power. Many observers saw the move as a step toward the installation of Mugabe’s wife, Grace Mugabe, as vice president, which would put her in position to become president when the 93-year-old Robert Mugabe retires or dies.
On Monday, the head of the armed forces, General Constantino Chiwenga warned Mugabe to stop trying to purge the ruling ZANU-PF party of Mnangagwa supporters. Dozens have been arrested since the vice president was fired on November 5th.
Mnangagwa, 75, was seen for years as a likely successor to the president, and maintains a strong backing in the army. He is now believed to be in South Africa.
Grace Mugabe, 52, has support in the party’s youth wing and is believed to have engineered the firing of another vice president, Joice Mujuru, in 2014.
In Photos: Robert Mugabe’s years in power