Mugabe, wife held after 'bloodless correction'

Zimbabwe’s army said on Wednesday that it has President Robert Mugabe and his wife in custody and is securing government offices and patrolling the capital’s streets following a night of unrest that included a military takeover of the state broadcaster.

The night’s action triggered speculation of a coup, but the military’s supporters praised it as a « bloodless correction ».

For the first time, this southern African nation is seeing the military oppose Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state and one of the longest-serving authoritarian rulers. Mugabe has been in power since Zimbabwe’s independence from white minority rule in 1980.

Armed soldiers in armoured personnel carriers stationed themselves at key points in Harare, while Zimbabweans formed long lines at banks in order to draw the limited cash available.

In an address to the nation after taking control of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, Major General Sibusiso Moyo said the military is targeting « criminals » around Mugabe, and sought to reassure the country that order will be restored.

It was not clear where Mugabe, 93, and his wife were on Wednesday but it seems they are in the custody of the military. « Their security is guaranteed, » Moyo said.

Moyo added « as soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy. » The army spokesman called on churches to pray for the nation. He urged other security forces to « cooperate for the good of our country, » warning that « any provocation will be met with an appropriate response. »

All troops were ordered to return to barracks immediately, with all leave canceled, said Moyo. The broadcast was sent out from the ZBC headquarters in Pocket’s Hill near Harare’s Borrowdale suburb.

Overnight, at least three explosions were heard in the capital, Harare, and military vehicles were seen in the streets.

The military actions appear to put the army in control of the country. Army commander Constantino Chiwenga had threatened on Monday to « step in » to calm political tensions. Mugabe’s ruling Zanu-PF party responded by accusing the general of « treasonable conduct. » But now Chiwenga appears to be in control.

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