Ten­sions grip Zimbabwe

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - - International - By Farai Mut­saka

HARARE, Zimbabwe — At least three ex­plo­sions were heard in Zimbabwe’s cap­i­tal early Wed­nes­day and mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles were seen in the streets after the army com­man­der threat­ened to “step in” to calm po­lit­i­cal ten­sions over 93year-old Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe’s pos­si­ble suc­ces­sor. The rul­ing party ac­cused the com­man­der of “trea­son­able con­duct.”

The As­so­ci­ated Press saw armed sol­diers as­sault­ing passers-by in the early morn­ing hours in Harare, as well as sol­diers load­ing am­mu­ni­tion near four mil­i­tary ve­hi­cles. The ex­plo­sions could be heard near the Univer­sity of Zimbabwe cam­pus.

Those de­vel­op­ments came sev­eral hours after The As­so­ci­ated Press on Tues­day saw three ar­mored per­son­nel car­ri­ers with sev­eral sol­diers in a con­voy head­ing to­ward an army bar­racks just out­side the cap­i­tal. For the first time, this south­ern African na­tion is see­ing an open rift be­tween the mil­i­tary and Mr. 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.

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 mil­i­tary’s back­ing and once was seen as a po­ten­tial pres­i­dent, fled the coun­try and said he had been threat­ened. More than 100 se­nior of­fi­cials al­legedly sup­port­ing him have been listed for dis­ci­plinary mea­sures by a fac­tion as­so­ci­ated with Mr. Mu­gabe’s wife, Grace.

The first lady ap­pears po­si­tioned to re­place Mr. Mnan­gagwa as one of the coun­try’s two vice pres­i­dents at a spe­cial con­fer­ence of the rul­ing party in De­cem­ber, lead­ing many in Zimbabwe to sus­pect that she could suc­ceed her hus­band. Ms. Mu­gabe is un­pop­u­lar with some Zim­bab­weans be­cause of lav­ish spend­ing as many strug­gle, and four peo­ple ac­cused of boo­ing her at a re­cent rally were ar­rested.

On Mon­day, army com­man­der Con­stantino Chi­wenga is­sued an un­prece­dented state­ment say­ing purges against se­nior rul­ing ZANU-PF party of­fi­cials, many of whom like Mr. Mnan­gagwa fought for lib­er­a­tion, 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. The state-run broad­caster did not re­port on his state­ment.

AP Photo/Ts­van­gi­rayi Muk­wazhi

Zimbabwe Army Com­man­der Con­stantino Chi­wenga crit­i­cized the in­sta­bil­ity in the coun­try’s rul­ing party caused by Pres­i­dent Robert Mu­gabe, who fired a vice pres­i­dent last week.

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