The current crisis in Zimbabwe seems to have taken a very dangerous dimension after the army chief threatened to overthrow the president, Robert Mugabe yesterday. Today, Tanks were seen moving towards the capital, Harare, in an apparent coup to overthrow the long-time president.
A Reuters witness saw two other tanks parked beside the main road from Harare to Chinhoyi, about 20 km (14 miles) from the city. One, which was pointed in the direction of the capital, had come off its tracks.
Witnesses said the tanks turned before reaching Harare, heading towards the Presidential Guard compound in a suburb called Dzivarasekwa on the outskirts of Harare.
“There were about four tanks and they turned right here, you can see markings on the road,” one witness on the Chinhoyi highway said pointing to a road that links up to the Presidential Guard compound that houses the battalion that protects the president.
President Robert Mugabe, the only leader Zimbabwe has known in 37 years of independence, was chairing a weekly cabinet meeting in the capital on Tuesday.
Reuters earlier reported that the capital appeared calm and there were no troops in the city as business continued normally.
However, UK-based Dailystar reports that Military vehicles are blocking off several routes into the city, with four tanks parked around 14 miles away on the main road from Harare to Chinhoyi.
That road, on the outskirts of Harare, leads towards the barracks housing the Presidential Guard, the troops tasked with protecting Mugabe.
“There were about four tanks and they turned right here, you can see markings on the road,” one witness said.
State TV broadcaster ZBC has also been surrounded by members of the armed forces, local reports say.
Zimbabwe troops are refusing to confirm whether a coup attempt against Mugabe is taking place, according to Reuters.
In an unprecedented step, the head of the armed forces, Constantino Chiwenga, openly threatened to intervene in politics on Monday, a week after Mugabe fired Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa, long seen as 93-year-old Mugabe’s likely successor.
Mnangagwa, a veteran of Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation wars, was popular with the military, which viewed his removal as part of a purge of independence-era figures to pave the way for Mugabe to hand power to his wife Grace, 52.
“We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that, when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in,” Chiwenga said in a statement read to reporters at a news conference packed with top brass on Monday.
Grace Mugabe has developed a strong following in the powerful youth wing of the ruling party. Her rise has brought her into conflict with the independence-era war veterans, who once enjoyed a privileged role in the ruling party under Mugabe, but who have increasingly been banished from senior government and party roles in recent years.
Neither the president nor his wife responded immediately to the general’s remarks, but on Tuesday the head of ZANU-PF’s youth wing accused the army chief of subverting the constitution.
“Defending the revolution and our leader and president is an ideal we live for and if need be it is a principle we are prepared to die for,” Kudzai Chipanga, who leads the ZANU-PF Youth League, said at the party’s headquarters in Harare.