HARARE, Nov 15, (AFP): Zimbabwe’s military appeared to be in control of the country Wednesday as generals denied staging a coup but used state television to vow to target “criminals” allied to President Robert Mugabe. Mugabe’s decades-long grip on power was dramatically weakened 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. “We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes… As soon as we have accomplished our mission we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.” Moyo said: “This is not a military takeover of government”.
But the generals’ actions posed a major challenge to the 93-year-old Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980. Tensions between the veteran leader and the military, which has long helped prop up his authoritarian rule, erupted in public ahead of the latest events. The ruling ZANU-PF party on Tuesday accused army chief General Constantino Chiwenga of “treasonable conduct” after he criticised Mugabe for sacking vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa.