Zimbabwe’s army said on 15 November it has President Robert Mugabe and his wife in custody.
The army is securing government offices and patrolling the capital’s streets following a night of unrest. It was a night that also included a military takeover of the state broadcaster ZBC.
The night’s action triggered speculation of a coup, but the military’s supporters praised it as a “bloodless correction”. An army spokesman appeared on ZBC to address the nation that this is not a coup or military takeover.
“We wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover,” the army statement 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”.
The spokesperson added “as soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy”.
The army spokesperson called on churches to pray for the nation. He urged other security forces to “cooperate for the good of our country”. However, he warned that “any provocation will be met with an appropriate response”.
Armed soldiers in armoured personnel carriers stationed themselves at key points in Harare. Citizens formed long lines at banks to withdraw the limited cash available, a routine chore in the country’s ongoing financial crisis. People looked at their phones to read about the army takeover and others went to work or to shops.
It was not clear where Mugabe, 93, and his wife were but it seems they are in the custody of the military. “Their security is guaranteed,” the army spokesman said.
The statement called on troops to return to barracks immediately, with all leave cancelled.
Overnight, at least three explosions were heard in the capital, Harare, and military vehicles were seen in the streets.
The military actions appear to put the army in control of the country. Army commander Constantino Chiwenga had threatened on Monday to “step in” to calm political tensions.
Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party responded by accusing the general of “treasonable conduct”. But now Chiwenga appears to be in control.
‘A bloodless correction’
The army has been praised by the nation’s war veterans for carrying out “a bloodless correction of gross abuse of power”.
War veterans are staunch allies of Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was recently fired from his post of vice president by Mugabe. Mnangagwa fled Zimbabwe last week but said he would return to lead the country.
For the first time, this southern African nation is seeing an open rift between the military and Mugabe.
Mugabe is the world’s oldest head of state who has ruled since independence from white minority rule in 1980. The military has been a key pillar of his power.