- Tanks roll into Harare
Four tanks were spotted heading towards the Zimbabwe capital Harare on Tuesday, raising fears of a coup attempt in a country that has been ruled by Robert Mugabe for 37 years.
A witness saw two other tanks parked beside the main road from Harare to Chinhoyi, about 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 a Reuters witness.
ZIMBABWE’S ruling party said that it would never give in to military pressure as it accused the head of the country’s army of “treasonable conduct” after armoured vehicles were seen heading towards Harare.
The capital city remained 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” as a power struggle gripped the African nation.
That unprecedented statement represented a sharp escalation of the rumbling rows over who will succeed President Robert Mugabe, 93, who has been in power since the country gained independence from Britain in 1980.
After a hastily-called cabinet meeting earlier today, 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.
Mugabe fired Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa last week. The veteran of the country’s 1970s liberation war was popular with the military and had been seen as a likely successor to unpopular Mugabe.
The army views his removal as part of a purge of independence-era figures to pave the way for Mugabe to hand power to his wife Grace Mugabe.
Earlier Tuesday the youth wing of Zimbabwe’s ruling party accused the military chief of subverting the constitution for threatening to intervene.
In an unprecedented step, Chiwenga openly threatened to intervene in politics yesterday if the purge of war veterans did not stop.
In a statement, he said: “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.”
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.
—With agency reports