- Soldiers seen on streets of Harare
- Explosions rock Zimbabwe capital in early hours of morning
- Military ‘takes over state broadcaster’
- Moves come amid rift between Mugabe and military
Several loud explosions echoed across central Harare in the early hours of Wednesday after troops deployed on the streets of the capital and reportedly seized the state broadcaster.
The developments in the Zimbabwe capital fuelled speculation that a coup was under way against president Robert Mugabe, after the head of the armed forces threatened to “step in” over the sacking of an influential vice president.
Zimbabwe’s ruling party accused General Constantine Chiwenga of treason over his comments, after the rare appearance of the military vehicles in Harare.
Armed soldiers were assaulting passers-by in the early morning hours in Harare, according to the Associated Press, while soldiers were seen loading ammunition near a group of four military vehicles.
Aggressive soldiers told passing cars to keep moving through the darkness. “Don’t try anything funny. Just go,” one told a Reuters reporter on Harare Drive.
Two hours later, soldiers overran the headquarters of the ZBC, Zimbabwe’s state broadcaster and a principal Mugabe mouthpiece, and ordered staff to leave. Several ZBC workers were manhandled, two members of staff and a human rights activist said.
Shortly afterwards, three explosions rocked the centre of the southern African nation’s capital, near the University of Zimbabwe campus, witnesses said.
The US embassy in Zimbabwe warned its citizens in the country to “shelter in place” due to “ongoing political uncertainty”.
The British foreign office earlier said it was “aware of reports of military vehicles moving on the outskirts of Harare” and said it was monitoring the situation closely.
The move was widely seen as part of a battle between Mr Mnangagwa and Grace Mugabe, the first lady, over the presidential succession when Mr Mugabe dies or steps down. The Zimbabwean president, who is 93, fights his last election next year.
Many expect Mrs Mugabe to be appointed vice president in Mr Mnangagwa’s place at the Zanu PF special congress next month.
Gen Chiwenga, an ally of Mr Mnangagwa, demanded on Monday that Mr Mugabe immediately cease “purging” the former vice president’s allies in the party and in government.
“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,” the head of the armed forces commander said.
In a statement issued on Tuesday evening, Zanu-PF accused Gen Chiwenga of “treasonable conduct.”
Earlier on Tuesday Kudzai Chipanga, the leader of Zanu-PF’s youth wing, accused Gen Chiwenga of stealing billions of rands and said his movement would act to protect the president.
“We as Zanu-PF youth league are a lion which has awakened and found its voice, therefore we will not sit idly and fold our hands whilst cheap potshots and threats are made against Mugabe,” he said in a statement widely released on social media. telegraph/agencies