Ex­plo­sions in Harare amid coup ru­mours

The Daily Telegraph - - Front page - Peta Thorny­croft and Bar­ney Hen­der­son By

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.

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