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Zimbabwe: Explosions Rock Harare, Troops Take Over Broadcaster As Coup Speculations Intensify
15 November 2017, 11:43 | Opal Carroll
Zimbabwe army appears to have Mugabe in custody, denies military takeover on state TV
Zimbabwe's military said Wednesday that it is now in charge of the country in a move allegedly targeted at "criminals" around President Robert Mugabe.In a statement broadcast live on the state-run Zimbabwe Television in the early hours of Wednesday, a Zimbabwe Defence Forces officer called Sibusiso Moyo however said Mugabe was safe.
Heavy gunfire and artillery have also been heard in northern suburbs, although the situation is unclear, BBC reported on Wednesday. However, Isaac Moyo, Zimbabwe's ambassador in South Africa, claimed the government remains "intact".
Two hours later, soldiers overran the headquarters of the ZBC, Zimbabwe's state broadcaster and a principal Mugabe mouthpiece, and ordered staff to leave.
The statement added: "We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes... that are causing social and economic suffering in the country".
The Zanu-PF party said Gen Chiwenga's comments were "calculated to disturb national peace..."
Mnangagwa, 75, was seen for years as a likely successor to the president, and maintains strong backing in the army.
"Our wish is that you will enjoy your rights and freedoms and that we return our country to a dispensation that allows for investment, development and prosperity that we all fought for and for which many of our citizens paid the supreme sacrifice", he said.
The night's action triggered speculation of a coup, but the military's supporters praised it as a "bloodless correction".
The political crisis is "a very public showdown" between the youth faction, loyal to Grace Mugabe, and veteran liberation fighters, who back Mnangagwa, Al Jazeera reports.
Chombo was a leading member of the "G40" group in the ruling Zanu-PF party, led by Mugabe's wife Grace.
Chiwenga made an unprecedented announcement Monday that the army was prepared to intervene to halt party infighting and the purging of veterans, such as Vice President Mnangagwa, who fought Zimbabwe's independence war.
Notably though, the lead item on the ZBC state broadcaster's evening news bulletin was an anti-military rally by the youth wing of Mr Mugabe's ZANU-PF party - however the channel then missed its usual 11:00pm (local time) bulletin, without providing an explanation. "They might be trying to give a fig leaf to the notion that President Mugabe is still the leader". Four years later, Mugabe and Grace were married.
"The government's silence on the military deployments seem to confirm that President Mugabe has lost control of the situation", Robert Besseling, of the London-based EXX Africa risk consultancy, said.
The US embassy warned its citizens in the country to "shelter in place" due to "ongoing political uncertainty".
Martin Rupiya, an expert on Zimbabwe military affairs, said the army appeared to be moving to put the squeeze on Mr Mugabe.
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