Zimbabwe television interrupted for live announcement on Mugabe

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The unidentified soldier said the situation in the country “has moved to another level” and that he wished to assure the nation Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his family are safe and their security is “guaranteed.”

The man spoke of targeting “criminals” around the president who are “committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice.”

“As soon as we accomplish our mission we expect situation to return to normalcy,” he said.

The broadcast follows eyewitness reports of 100 troops on the streets outside of Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, amid rising tensions between Mugabe and key military leaders.

President Mugabe, the only leader many Zimbabweans have ever known, is facing an unprecedented challenge to his leadership in the wake of his shock sacking of his deputy, the powerful Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mnangagwa had previously been considered most likely to takeover from the 93-year-old Mugabe if the president stepped down or died in office. His sudden dismissal cleared the way for Mugabe to appoint his wife, Grace, to the position, prompting widespread discontent among formerly loyalist supporters.

Former deputy Mnangagwa enjoys strong support among the country’s military and security establishment. A former freedom fighter in the country’s liberation wars, the 75-year-old has since gone into hiding and his whereabouts are unknown.

The broadcast comes less than 48 hours after the nation’s army commander, Constantino Chiwenga, held a press conference in which he threatened to intervene should his political allies continue to be sidelined.

In response, Mugabe’s political party, Zanu-PF, accused Chiwenga of “treasonable conduct.”

Amid the increasing unrest, the United States and United Kingdom both issued warnings to their citizens inside Zimbabwe.

The State Department is encouraging Americans in the country to “shelter in place until further notice” due to reports of violence and ongoing political unrest, while the UK Foreign Office said it is “monitoring the situation closely” and advised people to avoid demonstrations and rallies.

No ‘shenanigans’

Mugabe, the longest serving leader in Africa, came to power in the 1980s after Zimbabwe liberation. He was initially revered as a Nelson Mandela-like independence advocate.

As that political momentum began to fade, Mugabe very quickly realized he needed to consolidate power and he did that through a combination of brutality and bribery, according to CNN’s Robyn Curnow, who has reported from the region for years.

“This man has managed to hold onto power by a combination of extreme wiliness and a very tried and tested method of paying off and keeping the people underneath him happy,” Curnow said.

The tactic has been effective in the past.

“There has never been a coup. There has never been an attempted coup. Any threat to his power base has been by democratic opposition,” Curnow said.

ZDF General Constantino Chiwenga speaks at a rare media conference in Harare on Monday.

Many analysts believe that the move by the President to sack his vice president, which gives Grace Mugabe a clearer path to the presidency, was a risky one.

Grace Mugabe is much younger than her husband and does not enjoy popular support, analysts say.

“She’s become increasingly more desperate, she knew that once he died, she would be kicked out. She had to be installed into some institutional place so that she could seize power,” Curnow said.

While Robert Mugabe and Grace Mugabe haven’t responded directly to Chiwenga’s remarks, the Zanu-PF Youth League, a key ally of Grace Mugabe, slammed what they said was overreach by the military into political issues.

“Defending the revolution and our leader and President is an ideal we live for, and, if need be, is a principle we are prepared to die for,” Kudzai Chipanga, Zanu-PF’s secretary of youth affairs, told reporters early Tuesday.

CNN’s Euan McKirdy and Hilary Clarke contributed to this report.



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