Explosions fuel fears of coup in Zimbabwe

Gunfire erupted near President Robert Mugabe’s private residence in Harare in the early hours of Wednesday, a witness told AFP, as questions mounted over the veteran leader’s grip on power.

« From the direction of his house, we heard about 30 or 40 shots fired over three or four minutes soon after 2:00 am, » a resident who lives close to Mugabe’s mansion in the suburb of Borrowdale told AFP.

Armoured vehicles have been seen on the streets near the Zimbabwean capital Harare, as questions mounted on Wednesday as to whether Mugabe, who has ruled since independence from Britain in 1980, still has a firm grip on power.

Tensions between the 93-year-old leader and the military that has been a key buttress to his reign have intensified, and his ZANU-PF party accused army chief General Constantino Chiwenga on Tuesday of « treasonable conduct » for challenging Mugabe over the sacking of the vice president.

The public dispute has presented a major test for Mugabe. Chiwenga had demanded that Mugabe stop purges of senior party figures, including vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was dismissed last week.

ZANU-PF said Chiwenga’s stance was « clearly calculated to disturb national peace… and suggests treasonable conduct on his part as this was meant to incite insurrection ».

Before being ousted, Mnangagwa had clashed repeatedly with Mugabe’s wife Grace, 52, who is seen as vying with Mnangagwa to be the next president.

As the situation deteriorated on the ground, the US embassy in Harare warned its citizens in the country to « shelter in place » due to « ongoing political uncertainty ».

The armoured vehicles spotted outside Harare alarmed many residents as Chiwenga had warned of possible military intervention. The army’s spokesman was not available to comment. (AFP)

For more details, click on: Explosions fuel fears of coup in Zimbabwe