There is growing uncertainty in Zimbabwe.
Soldiers on Wednesday took over the headquarters of the state broadcaster ZBC and blocked access to government offices, but the army says this is not a military take over.
President Robert Mugabe, who leads the ruling Zanu-PF party, is safe, an army spokesman has said.
But as yet, there is no official word from the Mugabe family as to their whereabouts.
What has happened so far: The backstory
- Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, an ally of the army chief and a veteran of the country’s struggle for independence, was sacked on November 8 by 93-year-old Mugabe for showing “traits of disloyalty”.
- Mnangagwa, who fled the country soon after, was seen as a likely successor to the ailing president, and his ousting now appears to pave the way for First Lady Grace Mugabe.
- Army commander Constantino Chiwenga said on Monday, November 13, that the military would act if purges against former war liberation fighters did not cease.
- Zanu-PF on November 14 accused the army chief of “treasonable conduct” after he challenged Mugabe over the sacking of the vice president.
War veterans and Mugabe supporters:
- War veterans, who fought alongside Mugabe during the 1970s liberation struggle and spearheaded the repossession of white-owned commercial farms in the 2000s, claim Mugabe has betrayed the revolution.
- The ongoing purges of scores of Mnangagwa allies have widened the rift between the Mugabes and various groups of war veteran leaders.
- Victor Matemadanda, secretary-general of the Zimbabwe National War Veterans Association, recently told Al Jazeera the ongoing expulsions were a strong indication that Mugabe was acting in his own interests and those of his wife.
- On Tuesday, November 14, the youth wing of ZANU-PF party, said it was “ready to die” for Mugabe, after the military threat to intervene.
- There were unconfirmed reports of explosions and shooting in the capital, Harare, on Tuesday evening.
Wednesday, November 15: The latest
- On Wednesday, November 15, the Zimbabwe army seized state TV and blocked off access to government offices.
- In a televised address early on Wednesday morning, military spokesperson, Major General SB Moyo, said the army was seeking to “pacify a degenerating, social, and economic situation”, and denied a coup. “We are only targeting criminals around [Mugabe] and are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country, in order to bring them to justice” he said. You can read the statement in full here.
- The US and UK have advised their citizens in Harare, the capital, to stay indoors amid the uncertainty. “You should avoid political activity, or activities which could be considered political, including political discussions in public places and criticism of the president,” Britain warned.
- As yet, there is no official comment from the government or the Mugabe family as to the president’s whereabouts.
- Zimbabwean newspaper The Herald ran with the headline: “Zanu-PF unfazed by Chiwenga”, referring to the army general.
- Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa, reporting from Harare, said the atmosphere on the streets felt tense. “I don’t think people expected this kind of military takeover. I’m Zimbabwean, I was born after independence from Britain, I’ve never experienced this kind of feeling in the air. At the moment, people are just wondering what is going to happen next.”
- Mutasa also said, however, that