As army units stood guard outside Zimbabwe’s parliament and took over the state broadcaster, the nation’s military assured citizens it was not conducting a coup. Our Observers in the capital Harare saw armoured vehicles in the streets on Wednesday, and were waiting to find out what’s really going on.
"This is not a military takeover of government," Major General Sibusiso Moyo told the nation in a statement broadcast repeatedly on state-owned ZBC Wednesday morning. He said the army was targeting “criminals” close to President Robert Mugabe, but said the president and his family were “safe and sound.”
Army troops checking a vehicle in Harare Wednesday Nov. 15. (Amateur photograph circulating on Twitter and Whatsapp).
Gunfire was heard near the 93-year-old president’s residence overnight. The South African government said Mugabe told President Jacob Zuma by telephone that he was "confined to his home" but otherwise fine.
Mugabe, 93, has ruled Zimbabwe for nearly four decades. His decision to fire his vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, on Monday left his 52-year-old wife Grace as his most likely successor. The decision provoked an angry response from the army, with army chief Gen. Constantino Chiwenga threatening to intervene.
Amateur video of an army checkpoint (circulating on Whatsapp).
“People have no clue what the army is trying to achieve”
This morning I saw a tank in the road near the parliament building, along with a few military vehicles - pickup trucks. At the university, three military helicopters just passed over, flying very low. That’s very unusual.
Students started arriving around 8am to take exams. But the exams have been cancelled for today. The university issued a statement saying they are watching the situation and will keep us posted.
Authorities at the University of Zimbabwe cancelled exams due to he held Wednesday Nov. 15. (Photo sent by our Observer)
The military said this morning they are trying to get rid of people around the president to do with corruption. People are not sure what the military is really trying to achieve with this move. Before this morning’s statement a lot of people were thinking it was a response by the army to the sacking of Vice President Mnangagwa. Now we’re not sure. Most people have no clue what the army is trying to achieve.”
“We’ve never seen anything like it”
Nigel Mugmau runs 263Chat, an online news network.
I had to take a detour to get to the office this morning. There was a strong military presence in the streets, and some roads were blocked. After I parked and was walking to the office, I saw a tank. There were people standing around and watching. I wanted to take some pictures, but it was too dangerous. We’ve never seen experienced anything like this before. All in all I saw four or five armoured vehicles.
The army seized the state TV channel. It’s been airing a statement from General Moyo all morning. We know the president’s office is under military surveillance but we don’t know where President Mugabe is.
For now we’re waiting to see what will happen. We’re waiting to see what the army says next. There are lots of rumours online – we don’t want to play into that. The army says it’s not a coup, but at the same time, they say they’re going after “criminals” who are close to the president. But basically the army is taking over.
A soldier next to an armoured personnel carrier, Wednesday Nov. 15. (Amateur photograph circulating on Whatsapp).
Another of our Observers, Hlupani Chipunza, a medical student at the University of Zimbabwe, saw another armoured personnel carrier, near the Parliament building, as he rode a bus through the centre Wednesday morning.