Zimbabwe’s military seized power early on Wednesday targeting “criminals” around President Robert Mugabe but gave assurances on national television that the 93-year-old leader and his family were “safe and sound”.
Soldiers and armoured vehicles blocked roads to the main government offices, parliament and the courts in central Harare, while taxis ferried commuters to work nearby, a Reuters witness said.
“We are only targeting criminals around him (Mugabe) who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice,” Zimbabwe Major General SB Moyo, Chief of Staff Logistics, said on television.
“As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.”
Zimbabwe opposition Movement for Democratic Change called for a peaceful return to constitutional democracy, adding it hoped the military intervention would lead to the “establishment of a stable, democratic and progressive nation state”.
The leader of Zimbabwe’s influential liberation war veterans called for South Africa, southern Africa and the West to re-engage Zimbabwe, whose economic decline over the past two decades has been a drag on the southern African region.
“This is a correction of a state that was careening off the cliff,” Chris Mutsvangwa told Reuters. “It’s the end of a very painful and sad chapter in the history of a young nation, in which a dictator, as he became old, surrendered his court to a gang of thieves around his wife.”
Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo, a leading member of the so-called ‘G40’ faction of the ruling ZANU-PF party led by Mugabe’s wife Grace, had been detained by the military, a government source said.