Longtime President Mugabe taken into custody
HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s military said early Wednesday that it had taken custody of President Robert Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state and one of Africa’s longest-serving leaders, in what increasingly appeared to be a military takeover in the southern African nation.
After apparently seizing the state broadcaster, ZBC, two uniformed officers said in a short predawn announcement that “the situation in our country has moved to another level.” While denying that the military had seized power, they said that Mugabe and his family “are safe and sound, and their security is guaranteed.”
“We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice,” said the main speaker, who was identified as Maj. Gen. S.B. Moyo, the army’s chief of staff.
Moyo — who was not widely known to the public but who was considered close to the commander of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces, Gen. Constantine Chiwenga — warned that “any provocation will be met with an appropriate response.”
Around 6 a.m. Wednesday, taxis were running on the main roads leading to central Harare and people seemed to be making their way to work. Some soldiers could be seen on the main roads but were not stopping commuters.
After the short announcement, commercials on farming and corn seeds appeared on the state broadcaster. There was no further clarification of the whereabouts or status of Mugabe, 93, who is the only leader his nation has known since independence in 1980.
Asked in a brief telephone interview about reports of a possible coup, the country’s information minister, Simon Khaya Moyo, said, “What can I say? I don’t know about that.” He did not elaborate.
The television announcement came after a long night of rumors and sketchy reports in Harare that a coup might be under way. The day before, in a remarkable act of defiance, Chiwenga had warned that “when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in.”