Vastavam web: Zimbabwe’s military was in control of the country today as President Robert Mugabe said he was under house arrest, although generals denied staging a coup.Mugabe’s decades-long grip on power appeared to be fading as military vehicles blocked roads outside the parliament in Harare and senior soldiers delivered a late-night television address to the nation.
“The president and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed,” Major General Sibusiso Moyo said, slowly reading out a statement.But the generals’ actions posed a major challenge to the 93-year-old Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980.Neighbouring South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, one of Mugabe’s closest allies, said he had spoken to the veteran leader by telephone.
Mugabe “indicated that he was confined to his home but said that he was fine,” the South African government said in a statement that called for calm and restraint.Mnangagwa’s dismissal left Mugabe’s wife Grace, 52, in prime position to succeed her husband as the next president a succession strongly opposed by senior ranks in the military.As the situation deteriorated overnight, prolonged gunfire was heard near Mugabe’s private residence.
Today, the TV state broadcaster played liberation struggle songs, while many citizens in Harare shopped at markets, drove to work or queued outside banks despite the turmoil.The US embassy warned its citizens in the country to “shelter in place” due to “ongoing political uncertainty”.”The government’s silence on the military deployments seem to confirm that President Mugabe has lost control of the situation,” Robert Besseling, of the London-based EXX Africa risk consultancy, said.
Mugabe is the world’s oldest head of state, but his poor health has fuelled a bitter succession battle as potential replacements jockey for position.
In speeches this year, Mugabe has often slurred his words, mumbled and paused for long periods.