Early this morning, heavy gunfire and explosions were heard in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, after which the military took control of the country’s airwaves, but they insist it is not a coup and the President is “safe” with his family.
Hours after taking control of the national broadcaster, ZBC, a military spokesman, Major General Sibusiso Moyo made a televised announcement saying it was not a military takeover. Major Moyo said the army was targeting “criminals around” Mugabe, who were “committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in order to bring them to justice”. He added that the situation will return to normalcy as soon as they are done.
Citizens were urged to remain calm and go about their normal activities.
“We urge you to remain calm and limit unnecessary movement,” Moyo said. “However, we encourage those who are employed and those with essential business in the city to continue their normal activities as usual.”
Moyo said the army had acted the way they did because the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation had been ordered not to broadcast a statement from the military on Monday and since the situation in the country “has moved to another level”, action had to be taken.
He further stated that all leave for members of the military has been canceled and personnel are to return to barracks immediately. He urged the security forces to “cooperate for the good of our country” while warning that “any provocation will be met with an appropriate response”.
The statement did not name those targeted and it is not clear who is leading the military action but a government source quoted by Reuters said Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo was among those detained. 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.
Alex Magaisa, the former adviser to Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, told the BBC he believes the military’s claim that they haven’t carried out a coup is false.
“They have decided not to call it a coup because they know that a coup does not sell, it will be condemned,” he said. “But as far as authority is concerned it seems very clear that President Mugabe is now just a president in name and authority is now residing in the military.”
Meanwhile, the UK Foreign Office has advised Britons “currently in Harare to remain safely at home or in their accommodation until the situation becomes clearer”. The US embassy in Harare also advised US citizens in Zimbabwe to “shelter in place” until further notice. It tweeted that it would be closed on Wednesday “due to ongoing uncertainty”. The EU delegation also tweeted that it would stay closed on Wednesday.
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