Robert Mugabe is being confined to his home, but is in good health, according to Jacob Zuma, South Africa’s president, who said he has spoken to his Zimbabwean counterpart.
Military vehicles took to the streets of the Zimbabwean capital and prolonged gunfire was heard near the presidential residence early Wednesday as questions mounted over Robert Mugabe’s grip on power, even as the army denied a coup in a state broadcast.
As soldiers patrolled the streets, a military spokesman, in a live speech at 4 a.m. local time on state broadcaster ZBC, denied the country was in the grip of a coup, and announced Mugabe and his family were “safe.”
“To both our people and the world beyond our borders, we wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover of government,” Maj. Gen. S.B. Moyo said.
“What the Zimbabwe Defense Forces is doing is to pacify a degenerating political, social and economic situation in our country, which if not addressed may result in a violent conflict,” he said. He urged the public to remain calm but “limit unnecessary movement.”
Tensions between the 93-year-old leader and the military that has helped prop up his reign have intensified in recent days, with Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party on Tuesday accusing army chief General Constantino Chiwenga of “treasonable conduct”.
The military has been careful not to call their efforts a coup, but that appears to be what is actually unfolding, observers say.
“This a coup by any other name,” Alex Magaisa, a former political aide to ex-Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, told CNN.
“They might be trying to give a fig leaf to the notion that President Mugabe is still the leader. But de facto they are obviously the military force.”
The ruling party, Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) announced that Mnangagwa had been made the interim president. It said in a seeries if Twitter posts that Mugabe had been detained and that together with his wife Grace, he does not own own the party and the country.