Zim reeling after coup threat
WARNING: ARMY CHIEF TELLS MUGABE TO STOP PURGES OF RULING ZANU-PF PARTY
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.
GENERAL CONSTANTINO CHIWENGA