HARARE, November 15 (The Source) – Zimbabweans awoke this morning to flurries of confused reports, leading some to ask, “Did I go to sleep and miss the revolution?”
Tanks and armoured vehicles were seen last night by our reporters and on social media, as they started to converge on the capital. At least three explosions were heard in the early hours. Today, reporters from The Source saw tanks blocking key roads in the capital, including the roads to parliament and the president’s office. The streets are quiet, with little traffic.
Most businesses, including the stock exchange and banks are operating, although services are restricted with areas of the capital cordoned off.
“I think the situation is calm enough for us to operate. So far there has been nothing untoward but we will, of course play it by the ear,” an advertising manager with a city firm told The Source.
Speaking on state television, which is now under the control of the army, Major General Sibusiso Moyo said that 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe was “safe and sound”, but denied this was a coup.
“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,” said Moyo, who was wearing combat fatigues during the broadcast on ZBC.
After decades in power, the whereabouts of Mugabe are currently unknown, despite assurances from the army that he is safe. Ruling party ZANU-PF denied reports of a coup on its Twitter feed, saying that former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa was now in charge.
“There has been a decision to intervene because our constitution had been undermined, in the interim Comrade E Mnangagwa will be president of ZANU-PF as per the constitution of our revolutionary organisation.”
The Source cannot immediately verify who is running this Twitter account, although it states it is the official ZANU-PF party account.
The army detained Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo, and several others, including ZANU-PF youth leader, Kudzai Chipanga but those reports remain unconfirmed.
Reporters from The Source saw tanks blocking key roads in the capital, including the roads to parliament and the president’s office. The streets are eerily quiet, with little traffic.
Last week’s shock firing of vice president Mnangagwa, nicknamed “the crocodile” for his ruthlessness, threw into turmoil the narrative that he would take over once Mugabe finally stepped aside.
Even as Mnangagwa fled the country, Mugabe’s wife Grace, long a controversial figure for her ostentatious spending, appeared to be moving to ensure that power would transfer to her.
That appears to have been a step too far for the army, many of whom feared that the First Lady would utilize her hold over the powerful youth wing of ruling party ZANU-PF to oust their leaders.
On Monday, Constantino Chiwenga, the Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General, demanded an end to the purging of ruling party members who were loyal to Mnangagwa.
Britain’s Foreign Office has urged all British nationals in Harare to remain safely at home.
“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,” the FCO said on its website.
The U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe told its citizens to “shelter in place” due to “the ongoing political uncertainty through the night.” The embassy is closed today.
War veterans, long-time allies of Mugabe since the 1970s liberation struggle, have claimed he has now betrayed the revolution.
Alongside Mugabe, they spearheaded the repossession of white-owned commercial farms in the 2000s, resulting in deaths and plunging the country into economic chaos, with a barely functioning economy.