Night of ten­sion in Harare

No one wants to see a coup, says main op­po­si­tion party

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - FRONT PAGE - BY KITSEPILE NY­ATHI NA­TION Cor­re­spon­dent and Agen­cies Harare, Tues­day

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

PHOTO | REUTERS

PHOTO | REUTERS

Soldiers stand be­side mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles just out­side Harare, Zim­babwe yes­ter­day.

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