Zimbabwe takeover targets ‘criminals’
HARARE: Zimbabwe’s military seized power yesterday targeting ‘‘criminals’’ around President Robert Mugabe but gave assurances on national television that the 93yearold leader and his family were ‘‘safe and sound’’.
Soldiers and armoured vehicles blocked roads to the main government offices, parliament and the courts in central Harare, a witness said.
‘‘We are only targeting criminals around him (Mugabe) who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice,’’ Zimbabwe Majorgeneral SB Moyo, Chief of Staff Logistics, said on television.
‘‘As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.’’
Neither Mugabe nor his wife Grace, who has been vying to succeed her husband as president, have been seen or heard from.
Zimbabwe’s opposition Move ment for Democratic Change called for a peaceful return to constitutional democracy, adding it hoped the military intervention would lead to the ‘‘establishment of a stable, democratic and progressive nation state’’.
The leader of Zimbabwe’s influential liberation war veterans called for South Africa, southern Africa and the West to reengage Zimbabwe.
‘‘This is a correction of a state that was careening off the cliff,’’ Chris Mutsvangwa said. ‘‘It’s the end of a very painful and sad chapter in the history of a young nation, in which a dictator, as he became old, surrendered his court to a gang of thieves around his wife.’’
Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo, a leading member of the socalled ‘G40’ faction of the ruling ZANUPF party led by Mugabe’s wife Grace, had been detained by the military, a government source said.
Mugabe, the selfstyled ‘‘Grand Old Man’’ of African politics, has led Zimbabwe for the past 37 years since it gained independence from Britain in 1980.
In contrast to his elevated status on the continent, he is reviled in the West as a despot whose disastrous handling of the economy and willingness to resort to violence to maintain power destroyed one of Africa’s most promising states.
Soldiers deployed across the Zimbabwe capital Harare on Tuesday after Mugabe’s ruling ZANUPF party accused the head of the military of treason.
Just 24 hours after military chief General Constantino Chiwenga threatened to intervene to end a purge of his allies in Mugabe’s ZANUPF, armoured personnel carriers were on main roads around the capital.
Soldiers overran the headquarters of the ZBC, Zimbabwe’s state broadcaster, and shortly afterwards, three explosions rocked the centre of Harare, witnesses said.
The United States and Britain advised their citizens in Harare to stay indoors because of ‘‘political uncertainty’’.
The southern African nation had been on edge since Monday when Chiwenga, Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, said he was prepared to ‘‘step in’’ to end a purge of supporters of sacked vicepresident Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Only a few months ago, Mnangagwa, a former security chief nicknamed ‘‘The Crocodile’’, was favourite to succeed his lifelong political patron but was ousted a week ago to pave the way for Mugabe’s 52yearold wife Grace to succeed him.
Chiwenga’s unprecedented statement represented a major escalation in the struggle to succeed Mugabe.
ZANUPF on Tuesday accused Chiwenga of ‘‘treasonable conduct . . . meant to incite insurrection’’.
The previous day, Chiwenga had made clear the army’s refusal to accept the removal of Mnangagwa — like the generals a veteran of Zimbabwe’s anticolonial liberation war — and the presumed accession of Grace, once a secretary in the government typing pool. — Reuters
Zimbabwe Defence Forces Majorgeneral Moyo makes an announcement on state broadcaster ZBC yesterday.