Zim­babwe’s mil­i­tary con­trols broad­caster, says lead­ers safe

Honolulu Star-Advertiser - - WORLD - By Farai Mut­saka

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.

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