Night of tension in Harare
No one wants to see a coup, says main opposition party
Zimbabweans were in panic yesterday after pictures appeared on social media showing army tanks moving towards the capital Harare, just a day after the army commander told President Robert Mugabe to stop purges of ruling party officials linked to former Vicepresident Emmerson Mnangagwa. The troops, believed to be from Inkomo Barracks on the outskirts of Harare, were heavily armed. Some pictures showed the tanks blocking a major road leading to the capital, sparking fears of a mutiny. Other tanks were parked by the roadside. There were no reports of violence, but the situation in the capital remained tense.
Zimbabweans were in panic today after a flurry of pictures appeared on social media, apparently showing army tanks moving towards the capital Harare.
The pictures surfaced a day after the army commander told President Robert Mugabe to stop purges of ruling party officials liked to former Vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The troops, believed to be from Inkomo Barracks on the outskirts of Harare, were heavily armed.
Some pictures showed the tanks blocking a major road leading to the capital, sparking fears of a mutiny.
Other tanks were parked by the roadside. There were no reports of violence, but the situation in the capital was tense.
The movements by soldiers occurred hours after Zanu-pf youths told journalists in Harare that they were ready to die for President Robert Mugabe following army commander Constantino Chiwenga’s unprecedented statement.
Gen Chiwenga, an ally of Mr Mnangagwa, said squabbling over President Mugabe’s succession now posed a security threat and the army may be forced to intervene.
Zanu-pf secretary for youths Kudzai Chipanga said they were ready to defend the ageing leader against the army, further stoking fears of unrest.
“We as the Zanu-pf youth league are a lion which has awakened and found its voice,” he said.
“Therefore, we will not sit idly and fold our hands whilst cheap pot shots and threats are made against the legitimate and popularly elected leader of the revolutionary party Zanu-pf and Zimbabwe.”
Mr Chipanga said soldiers should stop meddling in Zanu-pf affairs.
“All those in security sector fatigues who wish to engage in politics are free to throw their hats in the ring and not hide behind the barrel of the gun,” he added.
“We wish to remind them that conniving and conspiring to overthrow a constitutionally elected government is a crime in this country and anywhere in the world.”
The majority of Zimbabwe’s army commanders are veterans of the country’s liberation war and were heavily involved in the ruling party politics.
President Mugabe (pictured) has in the past complained about the military’s meddling in politics and his wife Grace recently claimed some commanders were threatening a coup if Mr Mnangagwa was not allowed to succeed her husband. The 93-year-old fired his deputy a week ago after accusing him of deceit and disloyalty.
Mr Mnangagwa escaped to South Africa, but issued a statement promising to return in the next few weeks to take over power.
“I saw a long convoy of military vehicles, including tanks, about an hour ago. I don’t know where they were heading,” a female fruit seller near Westgate shopping centre, about 10 kilometres from central Harare, told AFP.
A second female by-stander at the shopping centre also told the AFP reporter that she had seen the convoy.
The main opposition party has also called for civilian rule to be protected, while analysts called the crisis a potential turning point.
“No one wants to see a coup... If the army takes over that will be undesirable. It will bring democracy to a halt, and that is not healthy for a nation,” the MDC’S shadow defence minister, Gift Chimanikire, told AFP ahead of the convoy sightings.
The crisis “marks another landmark ominous moment in the ongoing race to succeed” Mugabe, said political analyst Alex Magaisa in an online article.
“(Mugabe) has previously warned the military to stay away from ZANU-PF’S succession race.
“His authority over the military has never been tested in this way. If he does nothing, it might be regarded as a sign of weakness. If he puts his foot down, it could result in open confrontation.”
Mr Mnangagwa was widely seen as Mugabe’s most loyal lieutenant having worked alongside him for decades and his ousting sent shockwaves through the region.
He fled the country and is thought to be in South Africa but has yet to make a public appearance following his searing five-page condemnation of Grace’s ambition and Mugabe’s leadership style.
His authority over the military has never been tested in this way. If he does nothing, it might be regarded as a sign of weakness. If he puts his foot down, it could result in open confrontation’’ Mr Alex Magaisa, political analyst
Soldiers stand beside military vehicles just outside Harare, Zimbabwe yesterday.