Zim­babwe takeover tar­gets ‘crim­i­nals’

Otago Daily Times - - WORLD -

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

PHOTO: REUTERS

Zim­babwe De­fence Forces Ma­jorgen­eral Moyo makes an an­nounce­ment on state broad­caster ZBC yes­ter­day.

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