Australians are being urged to reconsider any planned trips to Zimbabwe’s capital Harare after the military seized control of the African country.
Zimbabwe’s long-time ruler President Robert Mugabe was placed under house arrest in Harare on Wednesday after the army declared it was “targeting criminals” in his administration, sparking political turmoil.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade updated its travel advice for Zimbabwe, urging Australians to exercise a high degree of caution in Zimbabwe and to reconsider their need to travel to Harare because of the potential for civil unrest and violence.
“As a result of the escalating domestic political tensions and unpredictable security situation in Zimbabwe, we now advise you to reconsider your need to travel to Harare,” the DFAT advice says.
Australians already in Zimbabwe are being advised to stay indoors, avoid any demonstrations, rallies and large-scale public events amid fears they could turn violent.
“Reconsider your need to travel to Harare due to the escalating domestic political tensions and unpredictable security situation,” the DFAT advice says.
“Exercise a high degree of caution in Zimbabwe overall and pay close attention to the environment.”
Zimbabwe’s military took control of Mugabe’s offices, parliament, the airport and the state broadcaster during the early hours of Wednesday morning.
Tanks have been patrolling the streets in Harare, where Mugabe’s offices and parliament have been cordoned off by security force and people have flocked to banks to withdraw money.
The move by the military appears to have been sparked after Mugabe sacked vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa last week and then threatened to do the same to more than 100 officials from Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party.
A military spokesman said the safety of Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe for nearly four decades, and his family was guaranteed.
African President Jacob Zuma said while he had spoken to Mugabe by telephone at his home and he was “fine”, he called on Zimbabwe’s military not to make “unconstitutional changes of government”.