Zimbabwe Military Seizes Power Despite Denying Coup, Mugabe Safe
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe. 
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe. (Photo: AP)

Zimbabwe Military Seizes Power Despite Denying Coup, Mugabe Safe

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Zimbabwe's opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) called for a peaceful return to constitutional democracy on 15 November after an overnight military coup against 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe.

The MDC, the main political challenger to Mugabe's ZANU-PF party for the last two decades, also said it hoped the military intervention would lead to the "establishment of a stable, democratic and progressive nation state".

The military detained Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo on 15 November after seizing power in an attempt to root out “criminals” around President Robert Mugabe who it said were causing social and economic suffering, a government source said.

Army Issues Statement

In an extraordinary statement and amid a night of unrest, Zimbabwe's army, early on 15 November, sought to reassure the country that "this is not a military takeover" and although President Robert Mugabe was safe and sound, the military was targeting "criminals around him" who have sent the nation spinning into economic despair.

Following is the text of the address made by Zimbabwe Major General SB Moyo, Chief of Staff Logistics, on national television after the military seized power:

Following the address we made on 13 November, 2017, which we believe our main broadcaster, the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and The Herald were directed not to publicize, the situation in our country has moved to another level. Firstly, we wish to assure the nation that His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, and commander-in-chief of Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Comrade RG Mugabe, and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed.

We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice.

As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy. To the civil servants, as you are aware, there is a plan by the same individuals to influence the current purging that is taking place in the political sphere to the civil service. We are against that act of injustice and we intend to protect every one of you against that.

To the judiciary, the measures underway are intended to assure that as an independent arm of the state you are able to exercise your independent authority without fear of being obstructed as has been the case with this group of individuals.

To our members of parliament, your legislative role is of paramount importance for peace and stability in this country and it is our desire that a dispensation is created that allows you to serve your respective political constituencies according to democratic tenets.

To the generality of the people of Zimbabwe we urge you to remain calm and limit unnecessary movement. However, we encourage those who are employed and those with essential business in the city to continue their normal activities usual. Our wish is that you 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.

To political parties we urge you to discourage your members from engaging in violent behaviour.

To all churches and religious organisations in Zimbabwe we call upon you and your congregations to pray for our country and preach the gospel of love, peace, unity and development.

To both our people and the world beyond our borders, we wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover of government. What the Zimbabwe Defence Forces is actually doing is to pacify a degenerating political, social and economic situation in our country, which if not addressed may result in a violent conflict.

We call upon all the war veterans to play positive in ensuring peace, stability and unity in the country.

To members of the defence forces, all leave is cancelled and you all to return to your barracks with immediate effect.

To our respected traditional leaders, you are our custodians of our culture, customs, traditions and heritage and we request you to provide leadership and direction to your communities for the sake of unity and development in our country.

To the other Security Services: We urge you to cooperate for the good of our country. Let it be clear that we intend to address the human security threats in our country. Therefore any provocation will be met with an appropriate response.

To the media; we urge you report fairly and responsibly.

Thank you"

As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.
Army spokesperson

It was not clear where Mugabe and his wife were early on 15 November. "Their security is guaranteed," the army statement said.

The president reportedly attended a weekly Cabinet meeting the day before.

War Veteran Calls on The Region to ‘Cooperate’ With The Military

The leader of Zimbabwe's influential liberation war veterans called on South Africa, southern Africa and the West to re-engage with Zimbabwe after the military seized power from 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe.

Chris Mutsvangwa hailed the military's overnight move as the "correction of a state that was careening off a cliff" and said the military administration would usher in a "better business environment" after years of disinvestment and economic decline.

USA and UK Urge Citizens in Zimbabwe to Stay Indoors

The US ambassador in Zimbabwe has instructed all employees to remain home on Wednesday due to "ongoing political uncertainty," the embassy said in a statement on its website amid speculation about a coup.

"US citizens in Zimbabwe are encouraged to shelter in place until further notice," the statement said, adding the embassy would be closed to the public on Wednesday.

The UK government also expressed concerns over the safety of their citizens amid the unrest. The government advised its citizens currently in Harare, Zimbabwe, to remain indoors until political situation becomes clearer in the African country.

Due to the uncertain political situation in Harare, including reports of unusual military activity, we recommend British nationals currently in Harare to remain safely at home or in their accommodation until the situation becomes clearer.
Foreign & Commonwealth Office, in a statement.

What’s Going On In Zimbabwe?

Several loud explosions echoed across central Harare in the early hours of 15 November after troops deployed on the streets of the capital seized the state broadcaster, prompting speculation of a coup, a Reuters witness said.

Zimbabwe’s ruling party accused the head of the armed forces, General Constantino Chiwenga, of treason on 14 November, as troops took up positions around the capital in an escalation of a dispute with 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe over political succession.

Tanks and armoured personnel carriers were seen heading towards the Zimbabwe capital Harare, witnesses said. The tanks reportedly turned before reaching Harare, heading towards the Presidential Guard compound in a suburb called Dzivarasekwa on the outskirts of Harare. The soldiers were seen directing the traffic.

Zimbabwean soldiers and armoured vehicles blocked roads to the main government offices, parliament and the courts in central Harare, a Reuters witness said on Wednesday, after the military said it had seized power in a targeted assault on "criminals" around President Robert Mugabe.

Nearby, some Zimbabweans queued for cash outside banks while public taxis ferried commuters to work.

In an unprecedented step, Chiwenga openly threatened to intervene in politics on Monday, a week after President Mugabe fired Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa, long seen as his likely successor.

Mnangagwa, a veteran of Zimbabwe's 1970s liberation wars, was popular with the military, which viewed his removal as part of a purge of independence-era figures to pave the way for Mugabe to hand power to his wife Grace, 52.

We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in.
Constantino Chiwenga

Grace Mugabe has developed a strong following in the powerful youth wing of the ruling party. Her rise has brought her into conflict with the independence-era war veterans, who once enjoyed a privileged role in the ruling party under Mugabe, but who have increasingly been banished from senior government and party roles in recent years. Showing a generational divide, the ruling party's youth league, aligned with the 52-year-old first lady, on Tuesday criticised the army commander's comments, saying youth were "ready to die for Mugabe."

Mugabe could, for the first time, go into next year's elections without the active support of the military. War veterans broke ranks with him in 2016 and have vowed to form a broad front with the opposition to challenge his long rule.

(This is a developing story and will be updated.)

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