Purge by Mugabe runs risk of sparking coup
ZIMBABWE: President Robert Mugabe has been warned by Zimbabwe’s generals that if he does not stop his purge of senior figures in the ruling party, he risks a coup.
In an unprecedented rebuke that will deepen the country’s growing political crisis, General Constantine Chiwenga, head of the armed forces, yesterday condemned the ‘‘gossiping, backbiting and public chastisement’’ that he said had split the ruling Zanu-PF party and could degenerate into serious conflict, which the military could not tolerate.
He lambasted the sacking of senior party figures – which last week included the vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has close ties to the military – and ordered Mugabe and his wife Grace to stop their criticism of the armed forces.
‘‘The current purging which is clearly targeting members of the party with a liberation background must stop forthwith,’’ he told a press conference attended by about 90 senior army officers.
‘‘We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that when it comes to protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in.’’
The statement dovetails those made last week by Mnangagwa and Chris Mutsvangwa, head of the war veterans association. Both warned that Zanu-PF had been taken over by a cabal led by Grace Mugabe, which they said was ‘‘plundering the country’’ and destroying the party.
Until last week Mnangagwa had been a favourite to take over from Robert Mugabe, 93, when he dies or steps down. But he incurred the ire of Grace Mugabe, who is thought to want to succeed her husband. After his sacking, he fled the country, saying he feared for his life, and is said to be in China. – The Times