Military on collision course with Mugabe
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.