Military outside Zimbabwe capital after army chief's threat
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe was on edge today as armored personnel carriers were seen outside the capital a day after the army commander threatened to "step in" to calm political tensions over the president's firing of his deputy, and the ruling party accused the commander of "treasonable conduct."
The Associated Press saw three armored personnel carriers with several soldiers in a convoy on a road heading toward an army barracks just outside the capital, Harare.
While it is routine for armored personnel carriers to move along that route, the timing heightened unease in this southern African country that for the first time is seeing an open rift between the military and 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe. The military has been a key pillar of Mugabe's power since independence from white minority rule in 1980.
Mugabe last week fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and accused him of plotting to take power, including through witchcraft. Mnangagwa, who enjoyed the backing of the military and was once seen as a potential successor to Mugabe, fled the country and said he and his family had been threatened. More than 100 senior officials allegedly supporting him have been listed for disciplinary measures by a faction associated with Mugabe's wife, Grace Mugabe.
The first lady, whose political profile has risen in the past few years, now appears positioned to replace Mnangagwa at a special conference of the ruling party in December, leading many in Zimbabwe to suspect she could succeed her husband as president.
On Monday, army commander Constantino Chiwenga issued an unprecedented statement saying purges against senior ruling ZANU-PF party officials linked to the 1970s liberation war should end "forthwith."
"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," the army commander said.
The state-run broadcaster did not report on his statement.