Explosions in Harare amid coup rumours
Explosions echoed across Harare last night and soldiers took over Zimbabwe’s national broadcaster, prompting rumours of a coup against President Robert Mugabe. Zanu-pf accused the army chief of treason after he threatened to step in over the vice-president’s sacking.
ZIMBABWE’S army took over the country’s state broadcaster and explosions were heard on the streets of Harare, witnesses said, amid a mounting political crisis in the early hours of this morning.
There was speculation of an imminent coup against President Robert Mugabe by the army after troops were deployed earlier in the day.
A government official last night dismissed the rumours, saying the government in Harare was “intact” despite the presence of soldiers on the streets.
“There’s nothing really happening. They are just social media claims,” said Isaac Moyo, Zimbabwe’s ambassador to South Africa.
However, in the early hours, soldiers took over the headquarters of Zimbabwe’s national broadcaster, ZBC, several witnesses said.
Some ZBC members of staff were manhandled when soldiers occupied the premises, members of staff and a human rights worker told Reuters news agency. However, staff were assured they “should not worry” as the troops were merely there to protect the site, one source added.
At least three explosions were heard in the capital, close to the University of Zimbabwe campus, and there were reports of armed soldiers assaulting passers-by as well as others loading ammunition near a group of four military vehicles.
Earlier yesterday, the ruling Zanu-pf party accused General Constantine Chiwenga of treason. The head of the armed forces had threatened to step in on Monday after an influential vicepresident was sacked.
Tensions have been building since Emmerson Mnangagwa, a powerful figure in Zanu-pf, fled to South Africa last week after he was fired and then stripped of his lifetime membership of the party. The move was widely seen as part of a battle between Mr Mnangagwa and Grace Mugabe, the first lady, over the presidential succession when Mr Mugabe dies or steps down. The Zimbabwean president, who is 93, will fight his last election next year.
Many expect Mrs Mugabe to be appointed vice-president in Mr Mnangagwa’s place at the Zanu-pf special congress next month.
Gen Chiwenga, an ally of Mr Mnangagwa, demanded on Monday that Mr Mugabe immediately cease “purging” the former vice-president’s allies in the party and in government.
Zanu-pf accused Gen Chiwenga of “treasonable conduct”.
Earlier, Kudzai Chipanga, the leader of Zanu-pf’s youth wing, accused Gen Chiwenga of stealing billions of rands and vowed to act to protect the president.
“We as the Zanu-pf youth league are a lion which has awakened and found its voice, therefore we will not sit idly and fold our hands while cheap potshots and threats are made against Mugabe,” he said on social media.
The US embassy in Harare said early this morning it would be closed to the public because of “ongoing uncertainty” in the capital.
Soldiers stand beside military vehicles on the roads just outside Harare, Zimbabwe, yesterday. General Constantine Chiwenga, the head of the armed forces, had threatened to intervene after Emmerson Mnangagwa, the vice-president, was fired.