Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has been detained in an unfolding military takeover in the southern African country.
Soldiers took control of Zimbabwe’s ZBC state broadcaster in the early hours of Wednesday, and said the 93-year-old leader was “safe and sound”.
Mr. Mugabe has led the southern African country since independence in 1980.
But the soldiers denied that they’ve seized power, saying their action was only aimed at reining in ” criminal” elements around Mr. Mugabe, the oldest leader in the world.
Several officials have been held by the military, including ministers of the ruling ZANU-PF.
Those said to have been held include Albert Ngulube -Deputy Director Central Intelligence Organisation and Kudzai Chipanga – President of ZanuPF National Youth League.
Zimbabwe’s privately-owned NewsDay reports that three leading figures in the Generation 40 (G40) faction of Zanu-PF who had been reportedly fomenting chaos in the ruling party were picked up in the early hours of Wednesday following the intervention of the country’s Defence Forces.
Although the reports remain unconfirmed at the moment, indications are that Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo (Zanu PF’s secretary for administration), national commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo were arrested in raids at their respective homes.
Mr. Moyo is believed to have been the brains behind the G40 faction that has reportedly been masterminding the expulsion of liberation war heroes in ZANU-PF, including the recent sacking of former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, the report says.
Mr. Mnangagwa is said to have landed at an Air Force base in the country to take charge of affairs.
He was pushed pushed out to pave way for the emergence of Mr. Mugabe’s wife, a situation that irked the military, reports said.
Mr. Mugabe is said to be negotiating safe exit for himself and his wife, Grace.
ZANU-PF said this on Twitter Wednesday morning: Contrary to international reports, the gallant Zimbabwean Army has not staged a COUP. There is no COUP in Zimbabwe. Neither is there crisis.
The army is simply effecting a National Democratic Project and it’s doing so with peaceful aplomb.
The United Kingdom Embassy in Zimbabwe urges nationals to stay at home and monitor development:
“Due to the uncertain situation in Harare, incl. reports of unusual military activity, we advise British nationals in the city to stay safely at home/indoors until the situation becomes clearer. Monitor this account for updates.”
President Jacob Zuma of South Africa has sued for calm with the hope that the situation would not escalate beyond control.
President Zuma has called for calm and restraint and has expressed hope that developments in Zimbabwe would not lead to unconstitutional changes of Government as that would be contrary to both SADC and African Union positions.
He urges the Government of the Republic of Zimbabwe and #Zimbabwe Defence Force to resolve the political impasse amicably and has urged the Zimbabwean Defence Force to ensure that the maintenance of peace and security in the country is not compromised.
He added that SADC will continue to closely monitor the situation and remains ready to assist where necessary to resolve the political impasse in keeping with established SADC Protocols and processes.
Youth in the ZANU-PF say on Twitter that they’re satisfied with the conduct of the military so far.
They also confirmed arrest of their leader, Chipanga, but say his safety is guaranteed.
The Youth League would want to confirm the detention of Cde K Chipanga. His safety has been guaranteed & has implored us to comply with the National Democratic Project which is underway.
We would also want to commend the military for conducting the NDP with minimal force.
— ZANU PF YOUTH LEAGUE (@YLZANUPF1) November 15, 2017
China said on Wednesday that Zimbabwe military chief, Constantino Chiwenga’s visit to China on Friday was a normal military visit, after the southern African nation’s military said it had seized power.
Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, told a daily news briefing that China is closely watching the situation in Zimbabwe and hopes that relevant parties can properly handle their internal affairs.
He did not respond directly to the question on whether or not Mr. Chiwenga briefed China on his planned actions during the visit.
“I can only tell you that his visit to China this time was a normal military exchange mutually agreed upon by China and Zimbabwe.”
President Muhammadu Buhari has called for calm, peace and respect for the constitution in Zimbabwe.
The President urged all political and military stakeholders in Zimbabwe to avoid any action that may plunge the country into unnecessary conflict and impact negatively on the region.
According to President Buhari, “every attempt must be made to resolve all contentious issues by constitutional means in Zimbabwe to save the country from avoidable political instability.”
The appeal by the Nigerian leader came in the wake of reported “military takeover” as a result of rising political tension in the southern African country sequel to President Robert Mugabe’s recent removal of former Vice-President, Emmerson Mnangagwa.
This led to the threat by the head of the Armed Forces of Zimbabwe, General Constantino Chiwenga, that “the military will not hesitate to step in” when the issue had to do with protecting the “revolution.”
South African President Zuma says in a broadcast his Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and State Security Minister Bongani Bongo have been sent to Zimbabwe to meet with Mr. Mugabe and the military.
The recent development in Zimbabwe is “a matter of concern” for the European Union, European Commission spokeswoman, Catherine Ray, said on Wednesday in Brussels.
“We call on all the relevant players to move from confrontation to dialogue with the aim to a peaceful crisis resolution,’’ Ms. Ray said.
She also stressed that “fundamental rights” of citizens and the country’s “constitutional order and democratic governance” needed to be upheld.
Also reacting, Germany called for all sides to show restraint in Zimbabwe after the military seized power, saying it is targeting “criminals” around President Robert Mugabe.
“We see developments there with concern … The situation there is confusing and unclear,” a Foreign Ministry spokesman told a regular government news conference in Berlin.