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Zimbabwe's army seizes power, targets 'criminals' around Mugabe

Zimbabwe's army seizes power, targets 'criminals' around Mugabe
From Reuters - November 15, 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.

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.

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, 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.

The 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.

South African President Jacob Zuma - speaking on behalf of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) - expressed hope there would be no unconstitutional changes of government in Zimbabwe as that would be contrary to both SADC and African Union positions.

Zuma urged Zimbabwes government and the military to resolve the political impasse amicably.

ECONOMIC DECLINE

Zimbabwes economic decline over the past two decades has been a drag on the southern African region and millions of economic refugees have streamed out of the country, mostly to neighboring South Africa.

The International Monetary Fund and other Western donors have suspended aid to Zimbabwe since 1999 over Mugabes policies that are blamed for the economic meltdown.

The leader of Zimbabwes influential liberation war veterans called for South Africa, southern Africa and the West to re-engage Zimbabwe.

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 G40 faction, led by Grace Mugabe, of the ruling ZANU-PF partyhad been detained by the military, a government source said.

Soldiers deployed across Harare on Tuesday and seized the state broadcaster after Mugabes ZANU-PF party accused the head of the military of treason, prompting speculation of a coup.

Just 24 hours after military chief General Constantino Chiwenga threatened to intervene to end a purge of his allies in 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, the state broadcaster, a 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 capital, Reuters witnesses said.

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