Zimbabwe’s army seized control of the country on Wednesday,
saying it was removing “criminals” around Robert Mugabe and
holding the president for his own safety.
A spokesman said on state television that Mr Mugabe and his
family were being held in a “safe and secure place” while
soldiers carried out the operation in Harare, which followed a
day of high tension between the army’s commander, General
Constantino Chiwenga, and Mr Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF.
“We are targeting criminals around him who are committing
crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the
country,” the spokesman said. “As soon as we have accomplished
our mission we expect that the situation will return to
The army seized Zimbabwe’s state broadcaster in the capital of
Harare in the early hours of Wednesday and deployed armoured
personnel carriers on key routes, witnesses told Reuters.
Earlier on Tuesday Zanu-PF had accused Gen Chiwenga of
“treasonous conduct” after he called on Monday for a halt to a
purge of allies of Emmerson Mnangagwa, who fled the country
last week after Mr Mugabe sacked him as vice-president.
The accusation followed a rare press conference in which Gen
Chiwenga said the military would not “hesitate to step in” to
“protect the revolution”. Many interpreted his statement as a
warning against Mr Mugabe, who has ruled the southern African
nation since independence from Britain in 1980.
Mr Mnangagwa had until recently been favoured to succeed the
93-year-old president but lost a power struggle with Grace
Mugabe, the leader’s wife. The former security chief has strong
ties to the military and war veterans.
Many in Zimbabwe’s military view Mrs Mugabe, 40 years her
husband’s junior and the president’s former secretary, as an
interloper lacking in the political acumen to lead the party or
Witnesses reported hearing explosions in the northern suburbs
of Harare overnight. The US embassy in Harare said it would be
closed on Wednesday and warned US citizens to shelter in place.
“The US government encourages all Zimbabweans to approach
disputes calmly and peacefully while following democratic,
transparent, and constitutional processes for resolving
differences,” a state department spokesperson said.
The UK foreign office said British nationals should “remain
safely at home or in their accommodation until the situation
Robert Mugabe’s 37 years in power
1980 Mugabe celebrates overwhelming victory in independence
elections with a magnanimous speech soothing country’s white
minority and Britain, its former colonial power.
1982 The new president ruthlessly suppresses opposition to his
rule in the province of Matabeleland
Late 1990s Mugabe presides over often violent seizure of 4,500
white-owned farms, accelerating decline in the country’s white
2002 Mugabe wins a presidential election marred by violence.
Repression and economic disintegration gather speed, bringing
EU sanctions and Zimbabwe’s suspension and subsequent
withdrawal from the Commonwealth
2008 Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party loses parliamentary elections to
the Movement for Democratic Change, led by former trade
unionist Morgan Tsvangirai but Mugabe wins run-off after
Tsangvirai pulls out in protest at violence
2009 Regional mediators convince Tsvangirai’s opposition to
join Zanu-PF in a unity government, with Mugabe retaining the
presidency. Government introduces US dollar as main currency to
2013 At the age of 89 Mugabe wins another five-year term as
president, with an overwhelming victory over Tsvangirai. The
UK, US and EU raise serious concerns over poll’s credibility
2014 Mugabe’s second wife, Grace, elevated to senior position
in Zanu-PF despite no previous role in party as president
reinforces grip on power
Nov 6 2017 Mugabe sacks vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa,
clearing the way for his wife to take the post
Nov 13 After Mnangagwa’s removal, Zimbabwe’s top general warns
that the military will not hesitate to step in to end purges
against former liberation war fighters