Army tanks have been spotted heading to the Zimbabwean capital of Harare after the army gave President Robert Mugabe 24 hours to vacate presidency.
Four tanks and military vehicles were seen somewhere near Chinhoyi blocking the roads leading to Zimbabwe capital of Harare, reports of a possible standoff between the army and President Mugabe in a likely coup d’etat.
This comes a day after the head of the armed forces said he was prepared to “step in” to end a purge of supporters of ousted vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
— Instant Reporter (@InstantReporter) November 14, 2017
A Reuters witness saw two other tanks parked beside the main road from Harare to Chinhoyi, about 20 km (14 miles) from the city.
One of the tanks, which was pointed in the direction of the capital, had come off its tracks. Soldiers on the scene refused to talk to Reuters.
There are unverified reports claiming Mugabe has been under army siege at his blue roof residence for the past two days, the army are not allowing him or any person to leave or enter his residence.
It’s believed the army is demanding Mugabe to step down. Local media also reported that heavily armed military personnel had sealed off state TV broadcaster ZBC.
Zanu says no coup
The ruling ZANU party disputed reports of a military coup in a twitter message: “Thanks for your concerns, there is NO coup happening in Zimbabwe. Please continue with your lives and face up to your own problems.”
Thanks for your concerns, there is NO coup happening in Zimbabwe. Please continue with your lives and face up to your own problems.
— ZANU PF (@zanu_pf) November 14, 2017
It comes amid rising tensions between the east African nation’s military and the country’s ruling Zanu-PF party, headed by President Robert Mugabe – the only leader Zimbabwe has known in 37 years of independence.
The president plunged the country into political crisis by sacking his vice president Emerson Mnangagwa, 75, last week.
The long-serving veteran of Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation wars, had been viewed as a likely successor to Mr Mugabe before the president fired him.
But his downfall appeared to pave the way for his wife Grace to succeed her 93-year-old husband.
A number of people posted images of the military vehicles on social media. Some called it “a coup”.
Reports of army tanks spotted around Harare & increased army presence in the CBD.
In video, mention of at least 10 army trucks enroute to Harare
— Povo Zim (@povozim) November 14, 2017
The Independent UK reports that earlier this week, Zimbabwe’s top general warned that the military would not hesitate to step in to end purges against former liberation war fighters including Mr Mnangagwa.
“We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that, when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in,” said General Constantino Chiwenga in a statement.
“The current purging … targeting members of the party with a liberation background must stop forthwith”.
The commander of Zimbabwe Defence Forces and political ally of Mr 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 Ms Mugabe, a vocal critic of the former vice president.
In response the party’s Youth League accused the military chief of subverting the constitution.
“We will not fold out hands to allow a creature of the constitution to subvert the very constitution which establishes it,” said Kudzai Chipanga.
“Defending the revolution and our leader and president is an ideal we live for and if need be it is a principle we are prepared to die for,” he added.
The rising political tension in comes at a time when it is struggling to pay for imports due to a dollar crunch, which has also caused acute cash shortages.
Zimbabwe’s state media refrained from publishing Chiwenga’s statement. The Herald newspaper, which had initially posted some of Chiwenga’s comments on its official Twitter page on Monday, deleted the posts without explanation.