Zimbabwe's Army Seizes Control, Mugabe Sidelined

Zimbabwe's Army Seizes Control, Mugabe Sidelined

Zimbabwe's military seized power early on Wednesday targeting "criminals" around President Robert Mugabe but gave assurances on national television that the 93-year-old leader and his family were "safe and sound".

The streets of Zimbabwe's capital Harare were eerily quiet on Wednesday morning but wartime songs were broadcast over state radio and TV stations, while soldiers stopped pedestrians and motorists to ask for identity documents, witnesses say.

Zimbabwe Defence Forces Major General SB Moyo makes an announcement on state broadcaster ZBC, in this still image taken from a November 15, 2017 video.

"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", he said.

He said the country would return to normalcy as soon as the military had accomplished what he called its "mission".

But the Zanu-PF party said Chiwenga's comments were meant to "incite insurrection" and that it "reaffirms the primacy of politics over the gun" and accused him of "treasonable conduct".

Soldiers stand beside military vehicles just outside Harare, Zimbabwe Nov. 14, 2017.

"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.

For the first time, this southern African nation is seeing an open rift between the military and Mugabe, the world's oldest head of state who has ruled since independence from white minority rule in 1980.

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The leader of Zanu-PF's youth wing, Kudzai Chipanga, told reporters: "It is our country and future at stake and we will not let any individual military man interfere with the leader of the party and legitimately voted president of this country".

After clashing with Mr Mugabe's wife, Grace, the vice-president was accused of treachery and sacked.

But shortly after reports of tanks nearing the capital came through, Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party released a statement saying it would never succumb to military pressure.

Neither Mugabe nor Grace have responded in public to Chiwenga's remarks and state media did not publish his statement.

The general was talking about a recent shuffle in the party.

Martin Rupiya, an expert on Zimbabwe military affairs at the University of South Africa in Pretoria, said the army appeared to be putting the squeeze on Mugabe.

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