Zimbabwe’s military seized power early on Wednesday saying it was targeting “criminals” around President Robert Mugabe, the only ruler the country has known in its 37 years of independence. He is expected to announce his resignation shortly in a nationwide broadcast.
Former Vice President, Emerson Mnangagwa, who was fired last week by Mugabe to pave way for his wife to succeed him is now expected to head an interim government pending elections. He already twitted that he is back in the country.
Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace, has reportedly fled to Namibia as South African President, Jacob Zuma, who is also the Chairman of the South African Development Commission (SADC), has called for amicable solution to the crisis even as he sent special envoys to Zimbabwe.
Zuma had revealed that he spoke with Mugabe, who told him his family was safe but was under house arrest.
Soldiers seized the state broadcaster. 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.
The military said Mugabe and his family were safe. Mugabe himself 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.
It was not clear whether the apparent military coup would bring a formal end to Mugabe’s rule; the main goal of the generals appears to be preventing Mugabe’s 52-year-old wife Grace 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 state founders still in power.
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.
He plunged Zimbabwe into a fresh political crisis last week by firing his vice president and presumed successor. 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.
“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 SB 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.”