Zimbabwe’s military controls broadcaster, says leaders safe
7 HARARE, ZIMBABWE >> In an extraordinary statement after taking over the state broadcaster during a night of unrest, Zimbabwe’s army said early today it was only targeting “criminals” around President Robert Mugabe, and sought to reassure the country that “this is not a military takeover.” Mugabe and his wife were safe and sound, the army spokesman said.
“As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy,” the army spokesman said, calling on churches to pray for the country. He urged other security forces to “cooperate for the good of our country,” warning that “any provocation will be met with an appropriate response.” Overnight at least three explosions were heard in the capital, Harare, and military vehicles were seen in the streets. On Monday the army commander had threatened to “step in” to calm political tensions over the 93-year-old Mugabe’s possible successor. The ruling party accused the commander of “treasonable conduct.”
The U.S. Embassy closed to the public today and encouraged citizens to shelter in place, citing “the ongoing political uncertainty through the night.” The British Embassy issued a similar warning, citing “reports of unusual military activity.” For the first time, this southern African nation is seeing an open rift between the military and Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state, who has ruled since independence from white minority rule in 1980. The military has been a key pillar of his power.
It was not clear where Mugabe and his wife were today, but it seemed they were in the custody of the military. “Their security is guaranteed,” the army statement said.
The president reportedly attended a weekly Cabinet meeting Tuesday.