Tensions between Mugabe and army rise after deputy sacked
ZIMBABWE IS on edge after armoured personnel carriers were seen outside the capital a day after the army commander threatened to “step in” to calm political tensions.
Three armoured personnel carriers with several soldiers were seen in a convoy on a road heading toward an army barracks just outside the capital Harare.
The timing heightened unease that there is an open rift between the military and 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe as he apparently paves the way for his wife Grace to take over from him.
Mr Mugabe last week fired vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa and accused him of plotting to take power, including through witchcraft.
Mr Mnangagwa, who enjoyed the backing of the military and was once seen as a potential successor to Mugabe, fled the country and said he and his family had been threatened.
More than 100 senior officials allegedly supporting him have been listed for disciplinary measures by a faction associated with Grace Mugabe.
The first lady, whose political profile has risen in the past few years, now appears positioned to replace Mr Mnangagwa, leading many in Zimbabwe to suspect that she could succeed her husband as president.
On Monday, army commander Constantino Chiwenga issued an unprecedented statement saying purges against senior ruling ZANU-PF party officials linked to the 1970s liberation war should end “forthwith”.
“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,” the army commander said.
Last night, the ruling party issued a statement accusing the army commander of “treasonable conduct”, saying his comments were “clearly calculated to disturb national peace and stability” and were “meant to incite insurrection”.
Mugabe in the past has warned military commanders from interfering in Zanu-PF succession politics. Frustration has been growing as once-prosperous Zimbabwe’s economy has collapsed under Mugabe’s rule.
It was not clear whether the commander still had his post.
Accused former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa of plot to take power.