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Tanks roll towards Harare as Army, Mugabe head for clash

REUTERS
Published : Nov 15, 2017, 1:50 am IST
Updated : Nov 15, 2017, 1:51 am IST

A witness saw two other tanks parked beside the main road from Harare to Chinhoyi, about 20 km from the city.

Robert Mugabe
 Robert Mugabe

Harare: Four tanks were seen heading towards the Zimbabwe capital Harare on Tuesday, witnesses said, a day after the head of the armed forces said he was prepared to “step in” to end a purge of supporters of the vice-president who was sacked last week.

A witness saw two other tanks parked beside the main road from Harare to Chinhoyi, about 20 km from the city. One, which was pointed in the direction of the capital, had come off its tracks.

Witnesses said the tanks turned before reaching Harare, heading towards the Presidential Guard compound in a suburb called Dzivarasekwa on the outskirts of Harare.

“There were about four tanks and they turned right here, you can see markings on the road,” one witness on the Chinhoyi highway said, pointing to a road that links up to the Presidential Guard compound that houses the battalion that protects the President.

President Robert Mugabe, the only leader Zimbabwe has known in 37 years of independence, was chairing a weekly Cabinet meeting in the capital on Tuesday. The capital appeared calm and there were no troops in the city as business continued normally.

In an unprecedented step, the head of the armed forces, Constantino Chiwenga, openly threatened to intervene in politics on Monday, a week after Mr Mugabe fired vice-president Emerson Mnangagwa, long seen as 93-year-old Mr Mugabe’s likely successor.

Mr Mnangagwa, a veteran of Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation wars, was popular with the military, which viewed his removal as part of a purge of independence-era figures to pave the way for Mr Mugabe to hand power to his wife Grace, 52.

“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,” Chiwengasaid in a statement read to reporters at a press conference packed with the top brass on Monday.

Grace Mugabe has developed a strong following in the powerful youth wing of the ruling party. Her rise has brought her into conflict with the independence-era war veterans, who once enjoyed a privileged role in the ruling party under Mr Mugabe, but who have increasingly been banished from senior government and party roles in recent years.

Neither the President nor his wife responded immediately to the general’s remarks, but on Tuesday the head of ZANU-PF’s youth wing accused the Army chief of subverting the constitution.

“Defending the revolution and our leader and President is an ideal we live for and if need be it is a principle we are prepared to die for,” Kudzai Chipanga, who leads the ZANU-PF Youth League, said at the party’s Harare headquarters.

Tags: robert mugabe, zimbabwe, harare