Tuesday 21 November 2017

Zimbabwe on edge after tanks spotted near capital amid army commander's threat

Vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa was fired last week (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP/PA)
Vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa was fired last week (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP/PA)

Zimbabwe is on edge after tanks were seen outside the capital a day after an army commander threatened to "step in" to calm political tensions over the president's firing of his deputy.

The Associated Press saw three tanks with several soldiers in a convoy on a road heading toward an army barracks just outside the capital Harare.

While it is routine for tanks to move along that route, Tuesday's timing heightens unease that the country is for the first time seeing an open rift between the military and 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe.

Mr Mugabe last week fired vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa and accused him of plotting to take power.

More than 100 senior officials allegedly backing Mr Mnangagwa have been listed for disciplinary measures by a faction associated with Mugabe's wife.

AP

The first lady, whose political profile has risen in the past few years, now appears positioned to replace Mr Mnangagwa, leading many in Zimbabwe to suspect she could succeed her husband as president.

Mr Mnangagwa, who enjoyed the backing of the military and was once seen as a potential successor to Mr Mugabe, fled the country and said he and his family had been threatened.

On Monday, army commander Constantino Chiwenga issued an unprecedented statement saying purges against senior ruling ZANU-PF party officials linked to the 1970s liberation war should end "forthwith".

"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 army commander said.

Mr Mugabe did not respond to the military statement and government spokesman Simon Khaya Moyo said only the president could respond. The state-run broadcaster did not report on the statement.

The ruling party's youth league, aligned to the first lady, on Tuesday criticised the army commander's statement, saying youth were "ready to die for Mugabe".

Press Association

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