Harare: Zimbabwe’s military said it had seized power in a targeted assault on “criminals” around President Robert Mugabe who were causing social and economic suffering, but gave assurances the 93-year-old leader and his family were “safe and sound”. At least three explosions have been heard in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, with military vehicles also seen on the streets.
Zimbabwean soldiers and armoured 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.
The military detained Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo on Wednesday, a government source said. 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 Mugabe.
Soldiers deployed across the Zimbabwe capital Harare on Tuesday and seized the state broadcaster after Mugabe’s 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 Mugabe’s ZANU-PF, a Reuters reporter saw armoured personnel carriers on main roads around the capital.
Aggressive soldiers told passing cars to keep moving through the darkness. “Don’t try anything funny. Just go,” one barked at Reuters on Harare Drive.
Two hours later, soldiers overran the headquarters of the ZBC, Zimbabwe’s 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. The United States and Britain advised their citizens in Harare to stay indoors because of “political uncertainty.”