Mil­i­tary on col­li­sion course with Mu­gabe

Business Day - - FRONT PAGE - Agency Staff

Tanks were seen head­ing to­wards Harare, but the streets of the Zim­bab­wean cap­i­tal re­mained calm, a day af­ter the armed forces chief said he was pre­pared to “step in” to end a purge of sup­port­ers of a vi­cepres­i­dent sacked last week.

Zim­babwe’s gov­ern­ing party de­scribed crit­i­cism of its con­duct by Gen Con­stan­tine Chi­wenga as trea­son­able.

But busi­ness con­tin­ued nor­mally in the cap­i­tal and there was no sign of a ma­jor mil­i­tary pres­ence on the streets.

Wit­nesses said they had seen four ar­moured ve­hi­cles turn be­fore reach­ing Harare, head­ing to­wards the pres­i­den­tial guard com­pound in a sub­urb called Dzi­varasekwa on the out­skirts of Harare.

Mu­gabe is said to have chaired a weekly cab­i­net meet­ing in the cap­i­tal on Tues­day.

In an un­prece­dented step, Chi­wenga, openly threat­ened to in­ter­vene in pol­i­tics on Mon­day, a week af­ter Mu­gabe fired

vice-pres­i­dent Emer­son Mnan­gagwa, long seen as Mu­gabe’s likely suc­ces­sor.

“We must re­mind those be­hind the cur­rent treach­er­ous shenani­gans that, when it comes to mat­ters of pro­tect­ing our revo­lu­tion, the mil­i­tary will not hes­i­tate to step in,” Chi­wenga said at a news con­fer­ence packed with top brass on Mon­day.

Grace Mu­gabe has de­vel­oped a strong fol­low­ing in the pow­er­ful youth wing of the gov­ern­ing party.

“De­fend­ing the revo­lu­tion and our leader and pres­i­dent is an ideal we live for and if need be, it is a prin­ci­ple we are pre­pared to die for,” Kudzai Chipanga, who leads the ZanuPF Youth League, said at the party’s head­quar­ters in Harare.

Alex Ma­gaisa, a Bri­tish-based Zim­bab­wean aca­demic said it was pre­ma­ture to talk about a coup. A se­nior South African diplo­mat said Pre­to­ria had scram­bled its of­fi­cials in Harare to try to find out what was go­ing on, but they had lit­tle con­clu­sive in­for­ma­tion.

Mnan­gagwa is in self­im­posed ex­ile in SA af­ter re­ceiv­ing “in­ces­sant threats” to his life.

The South African diplo­mat raised con­cern over the risk of diplo­matic fall­out over Mnan­gagwa’s pres­ence in SA. Harare could mis­in­ter­pret this to mean that Pre­to­ria was back­ing Mnan­gagwa in the terse ZanuPF in­fight­ing and the diplo­mat warned that it was likely that Harare would push for an “ex­tra­di­tion re­quest”.

ANC sec­re­tary-gen­eral Gwede Man­tashe told jour­nal­ists dur­ing a me­dia brief­ing on the ANC’s na­tional ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee that Zim­babwe’s gov­ern­ment had to deal with threats by the mil­i­tary and it was not the pre­rog­a­tive of the ANC in SA to take any ac­tion.

“Zim­babwe is not our colony. It is not our prov­ince. It is our neigh­bour. We have no au­thor­ity over them,” Man­tashe said.

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