Zimbabwe army seizes control; Mugabe ‘safe’
HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s military said it had seized power in a targeted assault on “criminals” around President Robert Mugabe, but it gave assurances the 93-year-old leader and his family were “safe and sound.”
Zimbabwean soldiers blocked roads to the main government offices, parliament and the courts in central Harare, a Reuters witness said Wednesday.
Zimbabweans queued for cash outside banks as public taxis ferried commuters to work.
“We are only targeting criminals around him (Mugabe) who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice,” Major General SB Moyo said on national television Wednesday.
“As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.”
The military detained Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo on Wednesday, a government source said. Chombo was a leading member of the so-called ‘G40’ faction of the ruling ZANU-PF party, led by Mugabe’s wife Grace, that had been vying to succeed Mugabe.
Soldiers deployed across Harare on Tuesday and seized the state broadcaster after the ZANU-PF party accused the head of the military of treason, prompting frenzied speculation of a coup.
Just 24 hours after military chief General Constantino Chiwenga threatened to intervene to end a purge of his allies in the ZANU-PF, a Reuters reporter saw armored personnel carriers on main roads around the capital.
Two hours later, soldiers overran the headquarters of the ZBC, Zimbabwe’s state broadcaster.
Shortly afterwards, three explosions rocked the center of the capital, Reuters witnesses said.
The United States and Britain advised citizens in Harare to stay indoors.