Zimbabwe: Tensions Over Speculation Of A Coup Attempt

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe in Harare, Zimbabwe, 01 November 2017.

Armored vehicles were seen heading toward Harare a day after the armed forces chief, General Constantino Chiwenga, said he was prepared to “step in” to end a purge of supporters of a vice president sacked last week. The streets of the Zimbabwe capital remained calm, but there is a lot of confusion and tensions as the rift between the government of long time president Robert Mugabe and military deepens.


Zimbabwe’s ruling party has accused the country’s army chief of “treasonable conduct” after he warned of a possible military intervention in politics. Allies of Zimbabwe’s President have warned the military chief against acting. Chiwenga had said the army was prepared to intervene to end purges within the ruling Zanu-PF party. His comments came a week after Mugabe sacked his deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has fled into exile.

The Zanu-PF’s Youth League, which backs President Mugabe’s wife Grace to replace Mnangagwa, told the army chief to “stay in the barracks”. The leader of the Zanu-PF youth wing, Kudzai Chipanga, said his members would not allow the armed forces to subvert the constitution and were prepared to die to defend President Mugabe.

 

Zimbabwe military claims to defend liberation veterans

Chiwenga appeared at a news conference on Monday with another 90 senior army officers present. The state media blacked out his statement warning Mugabe to stop the sacking of liberation war veterans from Zanu PF, local media reported. Public broadcaster Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation did not cover Chiwenga’s press conference while the state-owned Herald promptly took down an article it had initially posted on its website.

Chiwenga was reacting after former Vice President Mnangagwa was fired from government and the ruling party by Mugabe. The commander of Zimbabwe Defence Forces and political ally of Mnangagwa, added that the Zanu-PF had been hijacked by people who did not fight in the 1970s liberation war, which some commentators read as a criticism of Mugabe’s wife Grace, a vocal critic of the former vice president. She was also speculated to be interested in taking the second most important political position in the country.

Martin Rupiya, an expert on Zimbabwe military affairs at the University of South Africa in Pretoria, said the army appeared to be putting the squeeze on Mugabe.

“There’s a rupture between the executive and the armed forces,” Rupiya said. Him and the other experts do not expect a full on coup however.

The rising political tension in the southern African country comes at a time when it is struggling to pay for imports due to a dollar crunch, which has also caused acute cash shortages.Mugabe has been ruling in Zimbabwe since 1987 as President, and seven years prior as a Prime Minister, making one of the longest incumbent political leaders in the world.

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