newsCO.com.au | Army ‘secures’ Robert Mugabe amid political turmoil | Tweet @newsCOflash

November 15, 2017

@newsCOflash

2017-11-15 05:34:59

  • Soldiers seen on streets of Harare
  • Explosions rock Zimbabwe capital in early hours of morning
  • Military ‘takes over state broadcaster’
  • Army says Mugabe is ‘safe and security is guaranteed’
  • Moves come amid rift between Mugabe and military

Zimbabwe’s army denied it had carried out a coup after taking over the state broadcaster in the early hours of Wednesday, even as military vehicles took to the streets of the Zimbabwean capital and prolonged gunfire was heard near the presidential residence.

Military officers read an address live on state TV, saying President Robert Mugabe was “safe” and his “security is guaranteed”.

“It is not a military takeover of government,” an army spokesman said in a televised statement. “We wish to assure the nation that his excellency the president… and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed.

“We are only targeting criminals around who him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice.

“As soon as we have accomplished our mission we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.”

The address came hours after several loud explosions echoed across central Harare and troops seized the headquarters of the ZBC, Zimbabwe’s state broadcaster.

“Although it doesn’t look like a coup, it is a coup,”  Zimbabwe analyst Alex Magaisa, a senior Zimbabwe legal analyst  based in the UK, told The Telegraph.

Zimbabwe has just experienced its first coup. This type is called a guardian coup but whatever name it’s a coup. pic.twitter.com/HdwRInxeci

— Chipo Dendere, PhD (@drDendere) November 15, 2017

Several cabinet ministers, including local government minister Saviour Kasukuwere and finance minister Ignatius Chombo, and Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwayo, were arrested. There was allegedly a brief gun fight outside Mr Chombo’s house. 

Speculation had been mounting throughout the day that a coup was under way against Mr Mugabe, after the head of the armed forces threatened to “step in” over the sacking of an influential vice president.

Zimbabwe’s ruling party accused General Constantine Chiwenga of treason over his comments, after the rare appearance of the military vehicles in Harare. 

Gunfire erupted near Mr Mugabe’s private residence in Harare in the early hours of Wednesday, a witness told AFP.

“From the direction of his house, we heard about 30 or 40 shots fired over three or four minutes soon after 2.00 am,” a resident who lives close to Mugabe’s mansion in the suburb of Borrowdale said.

Armed soldiers were assaulting passers-by in the early morning hours in Harare, according to the Associated Press, while officers were seen loading ammunition near a group of four military vehicles.

Aggressive soldiers told passing cars to keep moving through the darkness. “Don’t try anything funny. Just go,” one told a Reuters reporter on Harare Drive.

Zimbabwe Army General Constantino Chiwenga Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces addresses a media conference held at the Zimbabwean Army Headquarters on November 13, 2017 in Harare Credit:  AFP

Two hours later, soldiers overran ZBC, a principal Mugabe mouthpiece, and ordered staff to leave. Several ZBC workers were manhandled, two members of staff and a human rights activist said.

Shortly afterwards, three explosions rocked the centre of the southern African nation’s capital, near the University of Zimbabwe campus, witnesses said.

The US embassy in Zimbabwe warned its citizens in the country to “shelter in place” due to “ongoing political uncertainty”.

The UK embassy in Harare also urged British citizens to stay indoors during the ‘uncertain situation’.

Tensions have been building in Zimbabwe since Emmerson Mnangagwa, a powerful figure in the ruling Zanu-PF party, fled to South Africa last week after he was fired and was then stripped of his lifetime membership of the party. 

The move was widely seen as part of a battle between Mr Mnangagwa and Grace Mugabe, the first lady, over the presidential succession when Mr Mugabe dies or steps down. The Zimbabwean president, who is 93, fights his last election next year. 

Many expected Mrs Mugabe to be appointed vice president in Mr Mnangagwa’s place at the Zanu PF special congress next month.

Gen Chiwenga, an ally of Mr Mnangagwa, demanded on Monday that Mr Mugabe immediately cease “purging” the former vice president’s allies in the party and in government. 

Armed Zimbabwean soldiers sit on top of a military tank in Harare, Zimbabwe in the early hours of Wednesday Credit: AP

“We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in,” the head of the armed forces commander said.

In a statement issued on Tuesday evening, Zanu-PF accused Gen Chiwenga of “treasonable conduct.”

Earlier on Tuesday Kudzai Chipanga, the leader of Zanu-PF’s youth wing, accused Gen Chiwenga of stealing billions of rands and said his movement would act to protect the president. 

“We as Zanu-PF youth league are a lion which has awakened and found its voice, therefore we will not sit idly and fold our hands whilst cheap potshots and threats are made against Mugabe,” he said in a statement widely released on social media.

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe Credit: AFP

The governments of South Africa and Zambia on Tuesday warned military leaders in Harare not to take any “unconstitutional” steps to avenge Mr Mnangagwa. 

Senior military sources in Johannesburg and Pretoria said they warned  Gen Chiwenga to avoid any “disruption to the constitution” after the military convoys were spotted on Tuesday afternoon. 

South African diplomatic sources said late Tuesday that Zambian president Edgar Lungu also warned General Chiwenga to ensure that Zimbabwe’s constitution was respected.

President Robert Mugabe listens to his wife Grace Mugabe at a rally of his ruling ZANU-PF party in Harare Credit: Reuters

A source living close to Mr Mugabe’s mansion said: “We presume any coup plotters would know that Zimbabwe would run out of fuel in a week or so, and that South Africa would likely cut off electricity.  Zimbabwe is a landlocked country and cannot survive if all borders were closed.”

A military intervention in Zimbabwean politics would be fraught with difficulties. 

The African Union and the regional 15-nation Southern African Development Community are both on record that they do not recognise any authority which comes to power via a coup d’etat.  

Follow the latest news here. 

5:54AM

‘Bloodless correction’

The Associated press reports that Zimbabwe’s war veterans’ association has called the army’s actions a “bloodless correction”.

Chris Mutsvangwa, chairman of the war veterans’ group, told  the AP in Johannesburg that Army General Constantino Chiwenga has carried out “a bloodless correction of gross abuse of power.” Mutsvangwa said the army will return Zimbabwe to “genuine democracy” and make the country a “modern model nation.”

Mutsvangwa and the war veterans are staunch allies of Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was fired from his post of vice president by Mugabe last week. 

5:34AM

Scenes in the capital

Reuters says Zimbabwean soldiers and armoured vehicles have blocked roads to the main government offices, parliament and the courts in central Harare.

Nearby, some Zimbabweans queued for cash outside banks while public taxis ferried commuters to work.

A military tank is seen with armed soldiers on the road leading to President Robert Mugabe’s office in Harare on Wednesday morning Credit: AP

Armed soldiers search a vehicle on the road leading to President Robert Mugabe’s office in Harare Credit: AP

4:55AM

Army statement in full

The televised statement made by Zimbabwe Major General SB Moyo, Chief of Staff Logistics:

“We wish to assure the nation that His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, and commander in chief of Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Comrade RG Mugabe, and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed.

“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.

“As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy. To the civil servants, as you are aware, there is a plan by the same people to influence the current purging that is taking place in the political sphere to the civil service. We are against that act of injustice and we intend to protect every one of you against that.

“To the judiciary, the measures underway are intended to assure that as an independent arm of the state you are able to exercise your independent authority without fear of being obstructed.” 

4:25AM

Finance minister ‘arrested’

Zimbabwe’s military has detained Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo, a government source told Reuters.

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 the 93-year-old president. 

4:04AM

Army’s coup denial follows a trend

3:07AM

‘A euphemism for house arrest’

Reporters and analysts have been trying to read between the lines after the rather ambiguous statement from the army. Here is some of the reaction.

2:39AM

Zimbabwe military officers say Mugabe is ‘safe’

In a state TV address, Zimbabwe military officers say Mugabe is safe and criminals around him are beng targeted.

The Army encouraged people to remain calm, but avoid unnecessary movement

Zimbabwe has just experienced its first coup. This type is called a guardian coup but whatever name it’s a coup. pic.twitter.com/HdwRInxeci

— Chipo Dendere, PhD (@drDendere) November 15, 2017

The full statement from the Zimbabwe Defense Forces.
[15 November 2017 (03:15 – 04:15)] pic.twitter.com/nfW59Oefvo

— �� (@iAmAugustine_) November 15, 2017

 

2:21AM

Army ‘targeting criminals around Mugabe’

 

2:19AM

Soldiers read address on state broadcaster

1:59AM

British citizens urged to stay indoors

The UK embassy in Harare has urged British citizens to stay indoors during the ‘uncertain situation’.

1:56AM

‘Shots heard near Mugabe’s residence’

A Harare resident has told AFP that  gunfire erupted near President Robert Mugabe’s private residence.

“From the direction of his house, we heard about 30 or 40 shots fired over three or four minutes soon after 2:00 am,” a resident who lives close to Mugabe’s mansion in the suburb of Borrowdale told AFP.

1:29AM

Tanks remain on the streets of Harare

Armed Zimbabwean soldiers sit on top of a military tank in Harare in the early hours of Wednesday Credit: AP

Yet the capital is still mostly calm.

A street scene along Robert Mugabe road in Harare Credit: AP

1:05AM

Robert Mugabe – Zimbabwe’s leader for 37 years

Robert Mugabe profile

12:51AM

Government staying quiet during tense day

The government has said little during the day as tensions mounted.

In the only official word from the government, Isaac Moyo, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to neighbouring South Africa, earlier dismissed talk of a coup, telling Reuters that the government was “intact” and blaming social media for spreading false information.

“There’s nothing really happening. They are just social media claims.”

12:25AM

US embassy closes for Wednesday

The US embassy in Harare says it will be closed on Wednesday due to “ongoing uncertainty in Zimbabwe” and is monitoring the situation. 

It has also reportedly advised US citizens to stay home and “shelter in place”. 

12:18AM

Explosions were heard near University of Zimbabwe campus

The Associated Press reports that armed soldiers are assaulting passers-by in Harare, as well as soldiers loading ammunition near a group of four military vehicles.

It said the reported explosions could be heard near the University of Zimbabwe campus.

12:06AM

Soldiers ‘in control of state broadcaster’

Reuters is reporting that soldiers have taken over the state broadcaster’s offices. 

Military personnel took over the headquarters of Zimbabwe’s ZBC state broadcaster in the early hours of Wednesday, two members of staff and a human rights worker said, compounding speculation of a coup.

Some ZBC members of staff were manhandled when soldiers occupied the premises, the sources said. However, staff were told they “should not worry” as the soldiers were merely there to protect the site, one source added.

12:01AM

Explosions heard in Harare

Reports are emerging of at least three explosions in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare as military vehicles are seen in streets.

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