Robert Mugabe is reportedly under siege in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare as several tanks rolled in amid an ongoing rift between the president and military.
Tanks were seen rolling through the streets a day after the head of the armed forces said he was prepared to “step in” to end a purge of supporters of vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was fired by Mugabe last week.
The head of the armed forces, Constantino Chiwenga, openly threatened to intervene in politics yesterday, a week after Mugabe fired Mr Mnangagwa, 93-year-old Mugabe’s most likely successor.
Today several tanks were seen approaching the city and photographs apparently showing military trucks parked in the city’s streets emerged online.
President Mugabe was chairing a weekly cabinet meeting in the capital today when tanks blocked approach roads to the capital.
— Man’s Not Barry Roux (@AdvBarryRoux) 14 November 2017
Zimbabwe’s Ruling Party posted online: “Thanks for your concerns, there is NO coup happening in Zimbabwe. Please continue with your lives and face up to your own problems.”
But scores of images and video have emerged on social media of military vehicles said to be approaching the capital.
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. Soldiers at the scene refused to talk to Reuters.
The youth wing of Zimbabwe’s ruling party accused the military chief of subverting the constitution for threatening to intervene after President Robert Mugabe plunged the country into crisis by sacking Mnangagwa last week.
Mnangagwa, 75, a long-serving veteran of Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation wars, had been viewed as a likely successor to Mugabe before the president fired him on Nov. 6.
His downfall appeared to pave the way for Mugabe’s wife Grace to succeed the 93-year-old president, the only leader Zimbabwe has known in 37 years of independence.
In an unprecedented step, the head of the armed forces, Constantino Chiwenga, openly threatened to intervene in politics on Monday if the purge of war veterans did not stop.
— Thomas van Linge (@ThomasVLinge) 14 November 2017
“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, 52, has developed a strong following in the powerful youth wing of the ruling ZANU-PF 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.