HARARE: Zimbabwean military officers read an address live on state TV in the early hours of Wednesday, saying they were not launching a coup but were “targeting criminals around” President Robert Mugabe.
“It is not a military takeover of government,” said one general reading a statement.
“We wish to assure the nation that his excellency the president… and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed.
“We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes… As soon as we have accomplished our mission we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.”
Zimbabwe army detains Finance Minister – govt source
The military has detained Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo, 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 the 93-year-old president.
Zimbabwe’s ruling party accused the head of the armed forces of treason on Tuesday as troops took up positions around the capital in an escalation of a dispute with 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe over political succession.
Just 24 hours after military chief General Constantino Chiwenga threatened to intervene to end a purge in the ruling party, a Reuters reporter saw six armoured personnel carriers on major thoroughfares on the outskirts of the capital.
Aggressive soldiers directing traffic told passing cars to keep moving through the darkness.
“Don’t try anything funny. Just go,” one soldier said on Harare Drive.
The presence of troops, including the movement of at least six armoured personnel carriers from a barracks northwest of Harare, sparked rumours of coup against Mugabe, although there was no evidence to suggest Zimbabwe’s leader of the last 37 years had been toppled.
The lead item on the ZBC state broadcaster’s evening news bulletin was an anti-military rally by the youth wing of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party.
The Southern African nation has been on edge since Monday when Chiwenga, Commander of Zimbabwe Defence Forces, said he was prepared to “step in” to end a purge of supporters of a sacked vice president.
The unprecedented statement represents an escalation of a rumbling political struggle over who will succeed Mugabe, who has been in power since the country gained independence from Britain in 1980.