Mugabe family in detention after military takes control of Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe Mugabe family in detention after military takes control of Zimbabwe
Army says it has taken temporary control to âtarget criminalsâ around 93-year-old head of state, who sacked his vice-president last week
Zimbabweâs army takes control - live updates
Robert Mugabe and his family remain under detention in Zimbabwe twelve hours after the military declared on national television that it had temporarily taken control of the country to âtarget criminalsâ around the head of state.
The move by the armed forces appears to have r esolved a bitter battle to succeed the 93-year-old president, which had pitted his former vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, against his wife, 52-year-old Grace Mugabe.Zimbabwe army takes control of Harare but denies coup against Mugabe â" live Read more
Mnangagwa was reported to have returned to Zimbabwe on Wednesday morning from South Africa, where he fled after being stripped of his office by Mugabe last week in an apparent attempt to clear Graceâs path to power.
The military takeover comes two days after the army chief â" flanked by other senior officers â" warned that he was prepared to âstep inâ to end turmoil in the ruling Zanu-PF party.
It is likely to signal the departure from power of the worldâs oldest leader within days, weeks or at most months.
Soldiers have sealed access to parliament, government offices and courts in the capital, residents said. Access to the presidentâs official residence was also blocked by t roops. But Harare appeared calm.
âAlthough a little bit scary, I think this is good for us. It has been a long time, we are going through a lot of hardships,â a fruit and vegetable seller in the centre of the city told the Guardian.
âPeople are excited because they are ready for change,â said an official who asked not to be named because of his job. âI donât think things will get violent because they are doing this for the people â" if they start shedding blood they canât do that any more. That is why they told people to stay away from the centre of town unless they have business, so troublemakers cannot stir things up.â
Early on Wednesday a military spokesman, Maj Gen SB Moyo made an announcement on state television saying Mugabe and his family were âsafe and sound and their security is guaranteedâ. Troops had seized the networkâs offices late on Tuesday night.
Moyo insisted â" despite appearances â" that a coup had not taken pla ce, adding: âas soon as [the armed forces] are done the situation will come to normalcyâ.
Cancelling all leave for members of the military, he urged the security forces to âcooperate for the good of our countryâ. âAny provocation will be met with an appropriate response,â he warned.
There was no sign of any resistance to the takeover or to the arrest of a series of senior officials associated with Grace Mugabe and her G40 faction. The youth wing of the ruling Zanu-PF, which had made defiant statements directed at the military earlier in the week, appeared to condone the military action.
Mnangagwa, a former spy chief, has strong support among many in Zimbabweâs armed forces, and it is unclear who might oppose him in coming days.
In contrast, Grace Mugabe is deeply unpopular and has few allies internally or, crucially, regionally.
South Africa, the biggest local power, allowed Mnangagwa to enter and leave its territory in recent days without hindrance, suggesting its support for his bid for power in its poor neighbour.
Zimbabweâs fragmented opposition has not condemned the military move.
Nelson Chamisa, the deput y head of the opposition MDC party, called for âpeace, constitutionalism, democratisation, the rule of law and the sanctity of human lifeâ.
The US embassy in the capital tweeted out a message citing âongoing uncertainty.â A statement later posted by the embassy told US citizens in Zimbabwe to âshelter in place until further noticeâ.
The British embassy said that due to the âuncertain political situationâ British nationals should remain at home.
One potential scenario is that Mugabe, the only leader Zimbabwe has known in 37 years of independence, restores Mnangagwa to his post of vice-president and then decides not to run in presidential elections due next year. Mnangagwa could then sweep the poll as the Zanu-PF candidate. Alternatively Mugabe might be convinced to resign earlier.
Analysts say it is difficult to see how the veteran leader can hold on to power.
A dramatic and at times confusing series of events began on Tuesday when military convoys were seen driving through the capital, sparking rumours of a coup attempt.
Mugabe, who was reported to have spent Tuesday afternoon in a cabinet meeting, was still believed to be in his official residence in Harare with his family on Wednesday.
Mugabeâs sacking of Mnangagwa came as a shock to many observers.
Nicknamed âthe crocodileâ from his time fighting i n the countryâs liberation wars, had been considered the mostly likely candidate to succeed Mugabe if the president decided to step down or died in office. Mnangagwaâs sacking was widely seen as a move to pave the way for Grace Mugabe to take power instead. It caused widespread discontent among Mnangagwaâs supporters and exposed deep factional divides within Zanu-PF ranks.
On Monday, Gen Constantine Chiwenga, the head of Zimbabweâs military, had called a press conference to warn that troops could intervene if long-term political allies continued to suffer.
His statement was initially carried on state media, then removed from the airwaves, but the government was slow to respond, with no word from Mugabe himself.
After the cabinet meeting on Tuesday, however, a statement was issued by Simon Khaya-Moyo, the government spokesman and national secretary for information and publicity, accusing Chiwenga of âtreasonable conductâ.
Mugabe has has syste matically dismissed veterans of the liberation struggle from party posts in recent years, leaving the top echelons stacked with officials who did not fight in the independence war.
This exacerbated a long running battle between an old political elite forged in the 1970s and 1980s, and a new generation which coalesced around Grace Mugabe.
War veterans broke ranks with the president in 2016 and have vowed to form a broad front with the opposition to challenge his rule.
Chris Mutsvangwa, the head of the war veteransâ group, told reporters in Johannesburg last week that Grace Mugabe was âa mad womanâ who had won power through a âcoup ... by marriage certificateâ.
Mutsvangwa issued a statement from Johannesburg on Wednesday praising the military for carrying out âa bloodless correction of gross abuse of powerâ that would return Zimbabwe to âgenuine democracy.â
Grace Mugabeâs reputation has been tarnished by a series of viol ent outbursts including an alleged assault against a model she had found with her sons in a luxury apartment in Johannesburg in September. Granted diplomatic immunity after the incident, she was allowed to leave South Africa despite a police inquiry, and denies any wrongdoing.
Reports of extravagant purchases, including property in South Africa and a Rolls-Royce, have also angered many Zimbabweans. Pictures of one of the first ladyâs sons apparently pouring most of a bottle of champagne over a luxury watch worth tens of thousands of dollars in a nightclub were shared widely on social media this week.
The crisis comes at a time when Zimbabwe faces severe economic problems. The country is struggling to pay for imports due to a shortage of dollars, which has also caused acute cash shortages. State employees, including some soldiers and policemen, have gone for months without payment of their salaries, deepening discontent with the government.Topics
- Robert Mugabe
- Grace Mugabe
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