Harare, Zimbabwe: Armed soldiers in armored personnel carriers have stationed themselves at key points in Harare. Zimbabwe’s army has taken President Robert Mugabe and his wife into custody, is in control of the capital, Harare, has taken over government offices and is patrolling the capital’s streets – but says it is ‘not a coup’. The military has also taken over the state broadcaster. Armed soldiers in armored personnel carriers have stationed themselves at key points in Harare.
In an address to the nation after taking control of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, Major General Sibusiso Moyo said early Wednesday the military is targeting “criminals” around Mugabe, and sought to reassure the country that order will be restored.
Mugabe and his wife is in the custody of the military. “Their security is guaranteed,” Moyo said.
“We wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover,” he said. “We are only targeting criminals around (Mugabe) who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice.”
Moyo added “as soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.” The army spokesman called on churches to pray for the nation. He urged other security forces to “cooperate for the good of our country,” warning that “any provocation will be met with an appropriate response.”
All troops were ordered to return to barracks immediately, with all leave canceled, said Moyo. The broadcast was sent out from the ZBC headquarters in Pocket’s Hill near Harare’s Borrowdale suburb.
The night’s action triggered speculation of a coup, but the military’s supporters praised it as a “bloodless correction.” South Africa’s president, Zuma said he spoke with 93-year-old Mugabe – who has been in power since Zimbabwe’s independence from white minority rule in 1980. Zuma said Mugabe was “fine” but confined to his home.
The developments followed Mugabe’s firing of his deputy, which had appeared to position the first lady, Grace Mugabe, to replace Emmerson Mnangagwa as one of the country’s two vice presidents at a party conference next month.
It was not clear Wednesday where Mnangagwa was, though he fled the country last week citing threats to him and his family.
The U.S. Embassy closed to the public Wednesday and encouraged citizens to shelter in place, citing “the ongoing political uncertainty through the night.” The British Embassy issued a similar warning, citing “reports of unusual military activity.”