Tensions grip Zimbabwe
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.
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.