Zimbabwe's Military Denies Military Takeover

Harare's residents have largely ignored the military presence on the streets and continued commuting socialising and working much as normal while analysts speculated that Mugabe and the army could be negotiating a transition

Zimbabwe's military have detained Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo after seizing power in an attempt to root out "criminals" around President Robert Mugabe who it said were causing social and economic suffering, a government source said.

Heavy gunfire and artillery were heard in northern suburbs of the capital, Harare, early on Wednesday. Firstly, we wish to assure the nation that His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe, and commander-in-chief of Zimbabwe Defence Forces, Comrade RG Mugabe, and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed.

In an address to the nation, an army spokesman said the military is targeting "criminals" around Mugabe, and sought to reassure the country that order will be restored.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe army said once mission accomplished, "situation will return to normalcy".

"But now‚ this caging that is happening‚ could maybe sway the army generals to say that Mugabe never went on the ground‚ into the bush with a gun fighting‚ but Mnangagwa was on the ground".

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Grace Mugabe is much younger than her husband and does not enjoy popular support, nor does she have the backing of the liberation-era party stalwarts.

In a message posted online Tuesday night, the embassy also instructed US government personnel in Zimbabwe to remain in their residences and work from home on Wednesday.

The leader of Zanu-PF's youth wing, Kudzai Chipanga, told reporters: "It is our country and future at stake and we will not let any individual military man interfere with the leader of the party and legitimately voted president of this country".

Several armoured vehicles were seen driving down main roads outside the Zimbabwean capital on Tuesday, as tension erupted between Mugabe's regime and the military that has been a key buttress to his 37-year reign.

As Mr Mugabe has systematically dismissed veterans of the liberation struggle from party posts, the top echelons of Zanu-PF are now stacked with officials who did not fight in the independence war.

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The US embassy has warned its nationals to "shelter" amid uncertainty and wait for further notice, according to its website.

But the Zanu-PF party said Chiwenga's comments were meant to "incite insurrection" and that it "reaffirms the primacy of politics over the gun" and accused him of "treasonable conduct".

The military in South Africa and Zambian diplomats on Tuesday warned military leaders in Harare not to take any "unconstitutional" steps to avenge Mnangagwa. "But those of us who know about what is going on are very depressed, because we want something to happen as life is too bad", said a vendor who lives close to the city centre.

"The government's silence on the military deployments seem to confirm that President Mugabe has lost control of the situation", Robert Besseling, of the London-based EXX Africa risk consultancy, said. Armed soldiers were assaulting passers-by in the early morning hours in Harare while officers were seen loading ammunition near a group of four military vehicles.

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