Zim army takes con­trol

Mu­gabe and Grace ‘un­der house ar­rest’

Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - PETA THORNYCROFT

ZIMBABWE’S army says it is in con­trol of the coun­try. It said this when it took over the state broad­caster early to­day.

Sev­eral cab­i­net min­is­ters and other lead­ers have al­legedly been ar­rested.

The army moved in on the Zimbabwe Broad­cast­ing Cor­po­ra­tion (ZBC) at mid­night and broad­cast to the na­tion, say­ing Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe and his fam­ily were safe in their home.

“So al­though it doesn’t look like a coup, it is a coup,” said Alex Ma­gaisa, a se­nior Zimbabwe le­gal an­a­lyst based in the UK.

The army has moved in to block roads lead­ing to State House and the new gov­ern­ment build­ings in the cen­tre of Harare.

Oc­ca­sional gun­fire was heard early in the morn­ing in the posh north­ern sub­urbs where most key gov­ern­ment peo­ple live.

Sev­eral cab­i­net min­is­ters, such as Lo­cal Gov­ern­ment Min­is­ter Saviour Ka­sukuwere and Fi­nance Min­is­ter Ig­natius Chombo, and Mu­gabe’s nephew Pa­trick Zhuwayo, were ar­rested.

All of them are part of the G40 fac­tion of Zanu-PF which is loyal to Grace Mu­gabe.

Ru­mours were cir­cu­lat­ing that Mu­gabe and his un­pop­u­lar wife, Grace, had been of­fered safe pas­sage to Sin­ga­pore, but this could not be con­firmed.

As far as pos­si­ble, army sources said, life would con­tinue. The air­port was still op­er­at­ing and nor­mal travel would con­tinue.

This ac­tion by the army was prompted by the sack­ing last week of vice-pres­i­dent Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa, who has been at Mu­gabe’s side for more then 40 years. He fled to South Africa last week.

At least four ar­moured troop car­ri­ers rolled into the Zim­bab­wean cap­i­tal yes­ter­day af­ter­noon, a day af­ter Gen­eral Con­stan­tine Chi­wenga, head of the armed forces, threat­ened to “step in” over the sack­ing of Mnan­gagwa, who be­came vice-pres­i­dent in 2014.

Ten­sions have been build­ing in Zimbabwe since Mnan­gagwa, a pow­er­ful fig­ure in Zanu-PF party, fled to South Africa last week af­ter he was fired and was then stripped of his life­time mem­ber­ship of the party.

The move was widely seen as part of a bat­tle be­tween Mnan­gagwa and Grace Mu­gabe, the first lady, over the pres­i­den­tial suc­ces­sion when Mu­gabe dies or steps down. The Zim­bab­wean pres­i­dent, who is 93, fights his last elec­tion next year. He has been in power for 37 years.

Many had ex­pected Grace Mu­gabe to be ap­pointed vice-pres­i­dent in Mnan­gagwa’s place at the Zanu-PF spe­cial congress next month.

Chi­wenga, an ally of Mnan­gagwa, de­manded on Mon­day that Mu­gabe im­me­di­ately cease “purg­ing” the for­mer vice-pres­i­dent’s al­lies in the party and in gov­ern­ment.

“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,” he said.

In a state­ment is­sued late yes­ter­day, Zanu-PF ac­cused Chi­wenga of “trea­son­able con­duct”.

Ear­lier yes­ter­day, Kudzai Chipanga, the leader of Zanu-PF’s youth wing, ac­cused Chi­wenga of steal­ing bil­lions of rand and said his move­ment would act to pro­tect the pres­i­dent.

Lion

“We as Zanu-PF youth league are a lion which has awak­ened and found its voice, there­fore we will not sit idly and fold our hands whilst cheap pot-shots and threats are made against Mu­gabe,” he said in a state­ment re­leased on so­cial me­dia.

The mil­i­tary in South Africa and Zam­bian diplo­mats warned mil­i­tary lead­ers in Harare not to take any “un­con­sti­tu­tional” steps to avenge Mnan­gagwa.

Zam­bian Pres­i­dent Edgar Lungu also warned Gen­eral Chi­wenga to en­sure that Zimbabwe’s con­sti­tu­tion was re­spected.

Harare was calm and the city cen­tre de­serted last night.

Re­ports from mil­i­tary sources in Harare said: “We are in con­trol,” with­out giv­ing more de­tail.

A source liv­ing close to Mu­gabe’s man­sion said: “All is nor­mal here. Traf­fic is com­ing and go­ing.”

“It feels just like any other day,” said a busi­ness­man who had just driven through the cen­tre of Harare and asked not to be iden­ti­fied. “We pre­sume any coup plot­ters would know that Zimbabwe would run out of fuel in a week or so, and that South Africa would likely cut off elec­tric­ity. Zimbabwe is a land­locked coun­try and can­not sur­vive if all borders were closed.”

Mu­gabe chaired a cab­i­net which went on un­til early evening at State House in Harare yes­ter­day, but then the army moved in on the ZBC just be­fore mid­night.

One staffer claimed he had been hurt, but other re­porters and tech­ni­cal staff made way for the army, ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion emerg­ing from Harare. Some sources in Harare said Mu­gabe had in­vited Gen­eral Chi­wenga to the of­fice for dis­cus­sions ear­lier in the day, but that the in­vi­ta­tion was ig­nored and that the pres­i­dent later de­cided to sack the gen­eral af­ter the ar­moured troop car­ri­ers ar­rived in Harare late in the af­ter­noon.

A mil­i­tary in­ter­ven­tion in Zim­bab­wean pol­i­tics may be fraught with dif­fi­cul­ties.

The African Union and the South­ern African De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity are both on record that they do not recog­nise any au­thor­ity which comes to power via a coup d’etat.

While Gen Chi­wenga backs Mnan­gagwa, who leads a fac­tion in Zanu-PF called “La­coste,” some se­nior of­fi­cers are close to the G40, the fac­tion of more ju­nior mem­bers of the rul­ing party, loyal to Grace Mu­gabe.

PIC­TURE: AP

A mil­i­tary tank and armed sol­diers on the road lead­ing to Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe’s of­fice in Harare to­day. At least three ex­plo­sions have been heard on the streets. Zimbabwe’s rul­ing party is ac­cus­ing the army com­man­der of ‘trea­son­able con­duct’ for his threat to have the mil­i­tary step in and calm the po­lit­i­cal tur­moil. For the first time, Zimbabwe is see­ing an open rift be­tween the mil­i­tary and 93-year-old Mu­gabe.

PIC­TURE: REUTERS

Sol­diers stand be­side mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles just out­side Harare.

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