President Robert Mugabe and his family have been kept safe by the country’s military while targeting “criminals” in the entourage of Mugabe who has ruled the South African nation for 37 years.
A general appeared on state television to announce the takeover as armoured vehicles blocked roads to the main government offices, parliament and the courts in central Harare. The atmosphere in the capital remained calm.
Mugabe was said to have spoken by telephone to the president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, and told him he was confined to his home but fine.
Reports said it was unclear whether the coup would bring a formal end to the 93-year-old Mugabe’s rule; the main goal of the generals appeared to be preventing Mugabe’s wife Grace, 41 years his junior, from succeeding him.
“We are only targeting criminals around him (Mugabe) who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice,” Reuters quoted Major General SB Moyo, Chief of Staff Logistics, as saying on television.
“As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy,” he added.
Western countries mostly called for calm. “We cannot tell how developments in Zimbabwe will play out in the days ahead and we do not know whether this marks the downfall of Mugabe or not,” British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson told parliament.
“We will do all we can, with our international partners, to ensure this provides a genuine opportunity for all Zimbabweans to decide their future.”
Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo, a leading member of the ruling party’s ‘G40’ faction, led by Grace Mugabe, had been detained by the military, a government source was quoted as saying.
Zimbabwe’s political crisis reached a boiling point last week with the dismissal of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, clearing the way for Mugabe’s wife, also a vice president, to succeed him.
Mugabe told supporters he had dismissed Mnangagwa for disloyalty and disrespect, as well as using witchcraft to take power.
The move exacerbated divisions in the ZANU-PF party, where the youth faction is firmly on Grace Mugabe’s side, while many older veterans of the struggle against white rule look to Mnangagwa. As a former defence minister, Mnangagwa has strong support with the military.
At one point last month, Grace Mugabe even warned that supporters of Mnangagwa were planning their own coup. He later fled to South Africa.
Political commentator Maxwell Saungweme was quoted as saying by phone that the military would probably try to pressure Mugabe to step down in favour of Mnangagwa as acting president.
“But this plan may not pan out as Mugabe might resist this. So the whole thing may be messy,” he warned.
Source: ( AFP )