Soldiers with the Zimbabwe Defense Forces (ZDF) have seized control of the state broadcasting outlet, it was reported in the wee hours of the morning in Harare. The seizure is speculated to be part of an military coup against the government of longtime President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe.
Two employees of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC), as well as a human rights worker, told the local Reuters bureau that soldiers occupied the state broadcasters’ headquarters in the capital city.
The staffers claimed that the soldiers manhandled them as they took control of the office. However, they were also told that they “should not worry” as the soldiers were only there to “protect” the site.
Unconfirmed reports have poured in from Harare: dramatic claims of gunfights, at least three explosions in the streets, and Mugabe’s house being surrounded and occupied by the military. Videos have surfaced of military vehicles, including tanks and trucks, blocking streets. Soldiers were also reportedly spotted loading ammunition into trucks. Confusion reigns in the capital, with few reputable reports thus far. The US embassy announced that they would be “minimally staffed and closed to the public” as a result of the uncertainty.
On Tuesday, tanks were spotted at the outskirts of Harare. They were believed to be heading to the capital.
Earlier in November, Mugabe removed his vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who had been a government minister for decades and a soldier during the nation’s war for independence in the 1970s. Mnangagwa is popular with the military, and he was thought to be the most likely successor to the 93-year-old Mugabe. With Mnangagwa gone, the most likely successor to Mugabe is his 52-year-old wife, Grace. A power grab by Grace Mugabe is being widely discussed as a driving force behind the sudden military moves.
Mnangagwa has not appeared publicly since his removal.
On Monday, General Constantino Chiwenga, the commander of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces, vowed to “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.”
Mugabe’s party, the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), replied to Chiwenga’s statement by calling it “treasonous conduct on his part” that was “meant to incite insurrection and violent challenges to the Constitutional Order.” They also criticized Chiwenga for involving himself in politics instead of sticking to military affairs.
“Such conduct stands unreservedly condemned not only in the party… but also in the [region] and the entire African continent where subversion of constitutional authority is… regarded as absolute anathema,” read a statement from Simon Khaya-Moyo, the national secretary for information and publicity.