President Robert Mugabe and his family have been detained following military intervention in capital Harare, which an army spokesman and the ruling party insisted Wednesday was “not a coup”.
Military officers appeared on television early Wednesday to make a statement saying they were “targeting criminals” around President Robert Mugabe.
Later Wednesday, ruling the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) made a series of announcements on Twitter confirming Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was sacked as vice president last week, as interim party leader and de facto president.
“Last night the first family was detained and are safe, both for the constitution and the sanity of the nation this was necessary,” the Zanu-PF tweeted. “Neither Zimbabwe nor Zanu are owned by Mugabe and his wife. Today begins a fresh new era and comrade Mnangagwa will help us achieve a better Zimbabwe.”
The Twitter statement insisted the military move was not a coup.
“Zimbabwe has not had a coup. There has been a decision to intervene because our constitution had been undermined, in the interim Comrade E. Mnagngawa will be president of Zanu-PF as per the constitution of our revolutionary organisation.”
Hours earlier, soldiers seized control of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation in the capital Harare.
Spokesman Maj. Gen. Sibusiso Moyo said the military were not taking power and told viewers the president and his family were safe and their security was “guaranteed”.
“As soon as we have accomplished our mission we expect that the situation will return to normalcy,” he said, adding: “We wish to make this abundantly clear this is not a military takeover of government.”
Referring to Mugabe, who has held power since 1980, he said: “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.”
On Tuesday evening, rumors of a coup or military show of force circulated as tanks and armored vehicles were seen heading towards Harare.
As well as the TV station, the military also sealed off the presidential offices with tanks.
Speaking from a written statement, Moyo told soldiers that all leave was cancelled and ordered them to return to barracks.
He urged the public remain calm and limit unnecessary movement but to continue normal life as much as possible.
“Our wish is that you will enjoy your rights and freedoms and that we return our country to a dispensation that allows for investment, development and prosperity that we all fought for and for which many of our citizens paid the supreme sacrifice,” he said.
The military’s intervention came after a period of unrest within Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF. Last week, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa was sacked amid a dispute over who would succeed the 93-year-old president.
Mnangagwa had previously been seen as Mugabe’s successor but was replaced by the president’s wife, Grace Mugabe, as the favorite, resulting in a split in the Zanu-PF.
The vice president’s removal led on Monday to army chief Gen. Constantino Chiwenga warning that the military was prepared to intervene to end purges within the party.
He warned against targeting “members of the party with a liberation background” -- a reference to Zimbabwe’s struggle against white minority rule in the 1970s. Mnangagwa is a veteran of the liberation war.
This led to the party accusing Chiwenga of “treasonable conduct”.
Meanwhile, South African President Jacob Zuma became the first African leader to react to the military intervention in Zimbabwe.
He urged calm and restraint, adding that he hoped developments there would not lead to unconstitutional changes of government -- a move that would be unacceptable to the African Union.
Speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a regional block of 15 countries, Zuma said: “SADC will continue to closely monitor the situation and remains ready to assist where necessary to resolve the political impasse in keeping with established SADC Protocols and processes.”
He also urged the government of Zimbabwe and its military to resolve the political impasse amicably.
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