• We’re targeting ‘criminals’ around him –Military
Zimbabwe’s military seized power yesterday saying it was holding President Robert Mugabe and his family safe while targeting “criminals” in the entourage of the only ruler the country has known in its 37 years of independence.
Soldiers seized the state broadcaster and a general appeared on television to announce the takeover. Armored vehicles blocked roads to the main government offices, parliament and the courts in central Harare, while taxis ferried commuters to work nearby. The atmosphere in the capital remained calm, Reuters reported.
“We are only targeting criminals around him (Mugabe) who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice,” Major General S. B. Moyo, Chief of Staff Logistics, said on television. “As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.” Moyo also said Mugabe and his family were “safe and sound and their security is guaranteed”.
In his first contact yesterday with the outside world since the takeover on Tuesday night, Mugabe spoke by telephone to the president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, and told him he was confined to his home but fine, the South African presidency said in a statement. Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo, a leading member of the ruling party’s ‘G40’ faction, led by Grace Mugabe, had been detained by the military, a government source said. Unconfirmed reports said the First Lady had fled to Namibia.
In the wake of the military takeover in Zimbabwe, the national police force has recalled all officers on leave. A top police official who insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press told The Associated Press that all police on leave have been ordered to return to their posts immediately.
The political crisis came to a head last week when Mugabe sacked his presumed heir, Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa, a long-serving former leader of the security forces nicknamed “the Crocodile” for his role as Mugabe’s enforcer over the decades.
The generals believed that move was aimed at clearing a path for Grace Mugabe to take over and announced on Monday they were prepared to “step in” if purges of their allies did not end. The head of the military General Constantino Chiwenga held a news conference with top brass on Monday threatening to “step in” if the purge of veterans continued.
It was not clear whether the apparent military coup would bring a formal end to the 93-year-old Mugabe’s rule; the main goal of the generals appeared to be preventing Mugabe’s wife Grace, 41 years his junior, from succeeding him.
But whether or not he remains in office, it is likely to mark the end of the total dominance of the country by Mugabe, the last of Africa’s generation of anti-colonial state founders still in power and one of the continent’s most polarizing figures.
Mugabe, still seen by many Africans as an anti-colonial hero, is reviled in the West as a despot whose disastrous handling of the economy and willingness to resort to violence to maintain power destroyed one of Africa’s most promising states.