Zim reel­ing af­ter coup threat

WARN­ING: ARMY CHIEF TELLS MU­GABE TO STOP PURGES OF RUL­ING ZANU-PF PARTY

The Citizen (Gauteng) - - WORLD -

Ten­sion af­ter abrupt sack­ing of vice-pres­i­dent Mnan­gagwa.

Zimbabwe was reel­ing yes­ter­day af­ter the army warned it could in­ter­vene if Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe con­tin­ued to purge vet­eran rul­ing party fig­ures in an ap­par­ent ef­fort to help his wife suc­ceed him.

Both the rul­ing party’s youth wing and the main op­po­si­tion party called for civil­ian rule to be pro­tected, while an­a­lysts called the cri­sis a po­ten­tial turn­ing point.

Army chief Gen­eral Con­stantino Chi­wenga on Mon­day warned Mu­gabe to “stop” purges of the rul­ing Zanu-PF party af­ter the pres­i­dent abruptly sacked vice-pres­i­dent Em­mer­son Mnan­gagwa last week.

Mnan­gagwa had clashed re­peat­edly with first lady Grace Mu­gabe, who is widely seen as vy­ing to re­place the 93-year-old leader when he dies.

“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 told top brass at Harare’s King Ge­orge VI mil­i­tary head­quar­ters in an un­prece­dented in­ter­ven­tion.

The main op­po­si­tion Move­ment for Demo­cratic Change (MDC) called for civil­ian rule to be de­fended fol­low­ing Chi­wenga’s threat.

“No one wants to see a coup. If the army takes over that will be un­de­sir­able. It will bring democ­racy to a halt and that is not healthy for a na­tion,” said the MDC’s shadow de­fence min­is­ter Gift Chi­manikire.

Zanu-PF’s Youth League, which strongly sup­ports Grace Mu­gabe, said in a state­ment that Chi­wenga would not be al­lowed to pick Zimbabwe’s lead­ers.

“We will stand guard in de­fence of the rev­o­lu­tion – like the peo­ple of Turkey last year who re­pelled rogue se­cu­rity forces from in­ter­fer­ing with an elected gov­ern­ment,” it said.

Nei­ther the ZBC state broad­caster, nor the gov­ern­ment-run Her­ald daily cov­ered the army chief’s open threat to Mu­gabe, prompt­ing se­nior com­man­ders to de­mand why his in­ter­ven­tion went un­re­ported.

The cri­sis “marks an­other land­mark omi­nous mo­ment in the on­go­ing race to suc­ceed” Mu­gabe, said po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst Alex Ma­gaisa in an on­line ar­ti­cle.

“His au­thor­ity over the mil­i­tary has never been tested in this way. If he does noth­ing, it might be re­garded as a sign of weak­ness. If he puts his foot down, it could re­sult in open con­fronta­tion.”

Mnan­gagwa fled the coun­try and is thought to be in South Africa, but has yet to make a pub­lic ap­pear­ance fol­low­ing his sack­ing.

Pic­ture: AFP

GEN­ERAL CON­STANTINO CHI­WENGA

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