Zimbabwe army launches takeover against 'criminals' around Mugabe, says president 'safe'

From Reuters - November 14, 2017

HARARE (Reuters) - Zimbabwes military seized power early on Wednesday targeting criminals around President Robert Mugabe but gave assurances on national television that the 93-year-old leader and his family were safe and sound.

Soldiers and armored vehicles blocked roads to the main government offices, parliament and the courts in central Harare, while taxis ferried commuters to work nearby, a Reuters witness said.

We are only targeting criminals around him (Mugabe) who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice, Zimbabwe Major General SB Moyo, Chief of Staff Logistics, said on television.

As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.

Neither Mugabe nor his wife Grace, who has been vying to succeed her husband as president, have been seen or heard from.

Zimbabwes opposition Movement for Democratic Change called for a peaceful return to constitutional democracy, adding it hoped the military intervention would lead to the establishment of a stable, democratic and progressive nation state.

The leader of Zimbabwes influential liberation war veterans called for South Africa, southern Africa and the West to re-engage Zimbabwe, whose economic decline over the past two decades has been a drag on the southern African region.

This is a correction of a state that was careening off the cliff, Chris Mutsvangwa told Reuters. Its the end of a very painful and sad chapter in the history of a young nation, in which a dictator, as he became old, surrendered his court to a gang of thieves around his wife.

Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo, a leading member of the so-called G40 faction of the ruling ZANU-PF party led by Mugabes wife Grace, had been detained by the military, a government source said.

Mugabe, the self-styled Grand Old Man of African politics, has led Zimbabwe for the last 37 years.

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.

Soldiers deployed across the Zimbabwe capital Harare on Tuesday and seized the state broadcaster after 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.

The United States and Britain advised their citizens in Harare to stay indoors because of political uncertainty.


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