Netizen 24 ZAF: Mugabe family in detention after military takes control of Zimbabwe

Mugabe family in detention after military takes control of Zimbabwe Play Video 2:32 Mugabe is 'safe and sound' Zim...

Mugabe family in detention after military takes control of Zimbabwe

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Mugabe is 'safe and sound' Zimbabwe's army says â€" video
Zimbabwe Mugabe family in detention after military takes control of Zimbabwe

Army says it has taken temporary control to ‘target criminals’ around 93-year-old head of state, who sacked his vice-president last week

Zimbabwe’s army takes control - live updates

Robert Mugabe and his family remain under detention in Zimbabwe twelve hours after the military declared on national television that it had temporarily taken control of the country to “target criminals” around the head of state.

The move by the armed forces appears to have r esolved a bitter battle to succeed the 93-year-old president, which had pitted his former vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, against his wife, 52-year-old Grace Mugabe.

Zimbabwe army takes control of Harare but denies coup against Mugabe â€" live Read more

Mnangagwa was reported to have returned to Zimbabwe on Wednesday morning from South Africa, where he fled after being stripped of his office by Mugabe last week in an apparent attempt to clear Grace’s path to power.

The military takeover comes two days after the army chief â€" flanked by other senior officers â€" warned that he was prepared to “step in” to end turmoil in the ruling Zanu-PF party.

It is likely to signal the departure from power of the world’s oldest leader within days, weeks or at most months.

Soldiers have sealed access to parliament, government offices and courts in the capital, residents said. Access to the president’s official residence was also blocked by t roops. But Harare appeared calm.

“Although a little bit scary, I think this is good for us. It has been a long time, we are going through a lot of hardships,” a fruit and vegetable seller in the centre of the city told the Guardian.

“People are excited because they are ready for change,” said an official who asked not to be named because of his job. “I don’t think things will get violent because they are doing this for the people â€" if they start shedding blood they can’t do that any more. That is why they told people to stay away from the centre of town unless they have business, so troublemakers cannot stir things up.”

Early on Wednesday a military spokesman, Maj Gen SB Moyo made an announcement on state television saying Mugabe and his family were “safe and sound and their security is guaranteed”. Troops had seized the network’s offices late on Tuesday night.

Moyo insisted â€" despite appearances â€" that a coup had not taken pla ce, adding: “as soon as [the armed forces] are done the situation will come to normalcy”.

Cancelling all leave for members of the military, he urged the security forces to “cooperate for the good of our country”. “Any provocation will be met with an appropriate response,” he warned.

There was no sign of any resistance to the takeover or to the arrest of a series of senior officials associated with Grace Mugabe and her G40 faction. The youth wing of the ruling Zanu-PF, which had made defiant statements directed at the military earlier in the week, appeared to condone the military action.

Mnangagwa, a former spy chief, has strong support among many in Zimbabwe’s armed forces, and it is unclear who might oppose him in coming days.

In contrast, Grace Mugabe is deeply unpopular and has few allies internally or, crucially, regionally.

Profile

Who is Grace Mugabe and why is she controversial?

Show Hide Profi   le Background

Grace Mugabe is the 52-year-old first lady of Zimbabwe. Born in South Africa, she married Robert Mugabe, 40 years her senior, in 1996. Initially struggling to emerge from the shadows of the president’s popular first wife, Sally, who died in 1992, Mugabe appeared by her husband’s side for official functions but rarely got involved in politics herself, focusing publicly on her charity work while gaining a reputation for legendary shopping expeditions.

Controversies

In 2009 a British photographer alleged that she punched him repeatedly in the face when he tried to take a picture of her in Hong Kong. She has since been implicated in several incidents outside Zimbabwe: in Singapore, in Malaysia and most recently in South Africa, where she allegedly assault ed a model in August.

Political ambitions

The unveiling of Grace Mugabe as a potential successor to her husband began in 2014, when she became head of the ruling party’s women’s league and the state propaganda machine began talking up her political acumen. Before the events of 14 November her path to power had received a boost when her main rival, the vice-president , Emmerson Mnangagwa, was fired on 6 November. The feud between Mugabe and Mnangagwa had been bitter â€" in October she publicly denied poisoning him after he fell ill at a rally in August.

Photograph: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP Was this helpful? Thank you for your feedback.

South Africa, the biggest local power, allowed Mnangagwa to enter and leave its territory in recent days without hindrance, suggesting its support for his bid for power in its poor neighbour.

Zimbabwe’s fragmented opposition has not condemned the military move.

Nelson Chamisa, the deput y head of the opposition MDC party, called for “peace, constitutionalism, democratisation, the rule of law and the sanctity of human life”.

The US embassy in the capital tweeted out a message citing “ongoing uncertainty.” A statement later posted by the embassy told US citizens in Zimbabwe to “shelter in place until further notice”.

The British embassy said that due to the “uncertain political situation” British nationals should remain at home.

One potential scenario is that Mugabe, the only leader Zimbabwe has known in 37 years of independence, restores Mnangagwa to his post of vice-president and then decides not to run in presidential elections due next year. Mnangagwa could then sweep the poll as the Zanu-PF candidate. Alternatively Mugabe might be convinced to resign earlier.

Analysts say it is difficult to see how the veteran leader can hold on to power.

Robert Mugabe addresses Zanu-PF members gathered to show    support for his wife, Grace, right, to become the party’s next vice-president. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Robert Mugabe addresses Zanu-PF members gathered to show support for his wife, Grace, on 8 November. Photograph: Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images

A dramatic and at times confusing series of events began on Tuesday when military convoys were seen driving through the capital, sparking rumours of a coup attempt.

Mugabe, who was reported to have spent Tuesday afternoon in a cabinet meeting, was still believed to be in his official residence in Harare with his family on Wednesday.

Mugabe’s sacking of Mnangagwa came as a shock to many observers.

Nicknamed “the crocodile” from his time fighting i n the country’s liberation wars, had been considered the mostly likely candidate to succeed Mugabe if the president decided to step down or died in office. Mnangagwa’s sacking was widely seen as a move to pave the way for Grace Mugabe to take power instead. It caused widespread discontent among Mnangagwa’s supporters and exposed deep factional divides within Zanu-PF ranks.

On Monday, Gen Constantine Chiwenga, the head of Zimbabwe’s military, had called a press conference to warn that troops could intervene if long-term political allies continued to suffer.

His statement was initially carried on state media, then removed from the airwaves, but the government was slow to respond, with no word from Mugabe himself.

After the cabinet meeting on Tuesday, however, a statement was issued by Simon Khaya-Moyo, the government spokesman and national secretary for information and publicity, accusing Chiwenga of “treasonable conduct”.

Mugabe has has syste matically dismissed veterans of the liberation struggle from party posts in recent years, leaving the top echelons stacked with officials who did not fight in the independence war.

This exacerbated a long running battle between an old political elite forged in the 1970s and 1980s, and a new generation which coalesced around Grace Mugabe.

War veterans broke ranks with the president in 2016 and have vowed to form a broad front with the opposition to challenge his rule.

Chris Mutsvangwa, the head of the war veterans’ group, told reporters in Johannesburg last week that Grace Mugabe was “a mad woman” who had won power through a “coup ... by marriage certificate”.

Mutsvangwa issued a statement from Johannesburg on Wednesday praising the military for carrying out “a bloodless correction of gross abuse of power” that would return Zimbabwe to “genuine democracy.”

Grace Mugabe’s reputation has been tarnished by a series of viol ent outbursts including an alleged assault against a model she had found with her sons in a luxury apartment in Johannesburg in September. Granted diplomatic immunity after the incident, she was allowed to leave South Africa despite a police inquiry, and denies any wrongdoing.

Reports of extravagant purchases, including property in South Africa and a Rolls-Royce, have also angered many Zimbabweans. Pictures of one of the first lady’s sons apparently pouring most of a bottle of champagne over a luxury watch worth tens of thousands of dollars in a nightclub were shared widely on social media this week.

The crisis comes at a time when Zimbabwe faces severe economic problems. The country is struggling to pay for imports due to a shortage of dollars, which has also caused acute cash shortages. State employees, including some soldiers and policemen, have gone for months without payment of their salaries, deepening discontent with the government.

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  • Zimbabwe
  • Robert Mugabe
  • Africa
  • Grace Mugabe
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Netizen 24 South Africa: Netizen 24 ZAF: Mugabe family in detention after military takes control of Zimbabwe
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