Zimbabwe’s military has denied that its takeover of power and the detention of President Robert Mugabe is a coup. Instead it claims to be targeting what it calls “ criminals” surrounding the president.
Spokesperson Moussa Faki Mahamat for the African Union – the key regional bloc – is keeping an open mind:
“We know there are problems within the ruling party, on probably finding an eventual successor to President Mugabe. There are conflicts, but we hope that this will not lead to bloodshed.”
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the African Union and Western countries have all called for calm.
Mugabe has, since the takeover, spoken by telephone to South African President Jacob Zuma saying he is confined to his home but fine. It is not clear whether the military want to bring a formal end to his rule. The main goal of the generals appears to be preventing his wife Grace from succeeding him.
Nick Mangwana is the UK representative of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party dismissed speculation over Mrs Mugabe’s whereabouts:
“The First Lady, Grace Mugabe, is in Zimbabwe right now. There are reports that she is out of the country, and (they are) incorrect. Did she accelerate the events? She did – (she) contributed a lot.”
In a sign Grace Mugabe’s allies were coming under pressure, the head of the ruling party’s youth wing, Kudzanai Chipanga, appeared on state TV on Wednesday evening to apologise for comments he had made criticising the army a day earlier. He said he was speaking voluntarily.
The military takeover has at least resolved a bitter battle between Grace Mugabe and former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa ( Known as “the crocodile” ). The latter was Mugabe’s presumed heir and its his sacking on the grounds of alleged treason, which has galvanised the military into action.