International

Zimbabwe army says takes power, Mugabe ‘safe and sound’

Zimbabwe

HARARE: Zimbabwe’s military on Wednesday confirmed that it had seized power in a targeted assault on “criminals” around President Robert Mugabe, but gave assurances that the 93-year-old leader and his family were “safe and sound”.

In a short broadcast on national television, which was seized overnight by soldiers, a spokesman for the military said it expected “normalcy” to return as soon as it had completed its “mission”.

Zimbabwe’s ruling party said on Tuesday it would never give in to military pressure and accused the head of the armed forces of treasonable conduct after armored vehicles were seen heading towards the capital Harare.

The city was calm but the country has been on edge since Monday when Constantino Chiwenga, Commander of Zimbabwe Defence Forces, said he was prepared to “step in” to end a purge of supporters of a sacked vice president.

That unprecedented statement represented a sharp escalation of a rumbling political struggle over who will succeed President Robert Mugabe, 93, who has been in power since the country gained independence from Britain in 1980.

Mugabe chaired a weekly cabinet meeting in the capital on Tuesday. Afterwards, the ruling party, ZANU-PF, said it stood by the “primacy of politics over the gun” and accused Chiwenga of trying to disturb the country’s peace and stability.

Meanwhile, the U.S. ambassador in Zimbabwe has instructed all employees to remain home on Wednesday due to “ongoing political uncertainty,” the embassy said in a statement on its website amid speculation about a coup.

“U.S. citizens in Zimbabwe are encouraged to shelter in place until further notice,” the statement said, adding the embassy would be closed to the public on Wednesday.

Soldiers deployed across the Zimbabwe capital Harare and seized the state broadcaster on Wednesday after 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party accused the head of the military of treason.

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