Harare, Nov 15 : The Zimbabwe Army on Wednesday took control of the state broadcaster here, denying reports of a coup and insisted the action was taken to “target criminals” and not against President Robert Muagbe, media reports said.
Before Army spokesman Major General Sibusiso Moyo took to the state broadcaster ZBC to deliver the message, gunshots and explosions were heard in the streets of Harare, reports the Guardian.
Some were heard close to the presidential residence in the north of the capital city.
In his address Moyo said: “To both our people and the world beyond our borders, we wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover of the government.
“What the Zimbabwe Defence Forces is doing is to pacify a degenerating political, social and economic situation in our country, which if not addressed may result in a violent conflict.
“We are only targeting criminals around him (Mugabe) who are committing crimes… As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.
“We wish to assure the nation that his excellency the President and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed.”
He urged the public to remain calm but “limit unnecessary movement”, CNN reported.
The broadcast comes less than 48 hours after Army commander Constantino Chiwenga, held a press conference in which he threatened to intervene should his political allies continue to be sidelined.
The state media did not cover the press conference at first, but was re-airing it on ZBC in the early hours of Wednesday, a sign that the military may have taken control of the station.
In response to the conference, 93-year-old Mugabe’s political party, Zanu-PF, accused Chiwenga of “treasonable conduct”.
Moyo told members of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces that all leave was cancelled and soldiers were expected to return to their barracks immediately and urged the country’s other security services to cooperate for “the good of our country”.
“Let it be clear that we intend to address the human security threats in our country. Therefore, any provocation will be met with an appropriate response.”
The UK Foreign Office advised Britons “currently in Harare to remain safely at home or in their accommodation until the situation becomes clearer”, reports the BBC.
The US embassy in Harare tweeted that it would be closed on Wednesday “due to ongoing uncertainty”.
It also advised US citizens in Zimbabwe to “shelter in place” until further notice.
Mugabe sacked Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week, amid a row over succession.
Mnangagwa had previously been seen as an heir to the president, but First Lady Grace Mugabe is now the clear front-runner.