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Soldiers seize Zimbabwe state broadcaster, anti-Mugabe coup talk intensifies

From Reuters - November 14, 2017

HARARE (Reuters) - Soldiers deployed across the Zimbabwe capital Harare and seized the state broadcaster on Wednesday after 93-year-old President Robert Mugabes ruling ZANU-PF party accused the head of the military of treason, prompting frenzied speculation of a coup.

Just 24 hours after military chief General Constantino Chiwenga threatened to intervene to end a purge of his allies in Mugabes ZANU-PF, a Reuters reporter saw armored personnel carriers on main roads around the capital.

Aggressive soldiers told passing cars to keep moving through the darkness. Dont try anything funny. Just go, one barked at Reuters on Harare Drive.

Two hours later, soldiers overran the headquarters of the ZBC, Zimbabwes state broadcaster and a principal Mugabe mouthpiece, and ordered staff to leave. Several ZBC workers were manhandled, two members of staff and a human rights activist said.

Shortly afterwards, three explosions rocked the center of the southern African nations capital, Reuters witnesses said.

Despite the troops stationed at locations across Harare, there was no word from the military as to the fate of Mugabe, Zimbabwes leader of the last 37 years and the self-styled Grand Old Man of African politics.

In contrast to his elevated status on the continent, Mugabe is reviled in the West as a despot whose disastrous handling of the economy and willingness to resort to violence to maintain power destroyed one of Africas most promising states.

In the only official word from the government, Isaac Moyo, Zimbabwes ambassador to neighboring South Africa, earlier dismissed talk of a coup, saying the government was intact and blaming social media for spreading false information.

Theres nothing really happening. They are just social media claims, Moyo told Reuters.

The Southern African nation has been on edge since Monday when Chiwenga, Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, said he was prepared to step in to end a purge of supporters of sacked vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Only a few months ago, Mnangagwa, a former security chief nicknamed The Crocodile, was favorite to succeed his life-long political patron but was ousted a week ago to pave the way for Mugabes 52-year-old wife Grace to succeed him.

POLITICS OVER THE GUN

Chiwengas unprecedented statement represented a major escalation of the struggle to succeed Mugabe, the only leader Zimbabwe has known since it gained independence from Britain in 1980.

Mugabe chaired a weekly cabinet meeting in the capital on Tuesday, officials said, and afterwards ZANU-PF said it stood by the primacy of politics over the gun and accused Chiwenga of treasonable conduct ... meant to incite insurrection.

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