There is growing uncertainty in Zimbabwe.
Soldiers on Wednesday took over the headquarters of the state broadcaster ZBC and blocked access to government offices, but the army says this is not a military take over.
President Robert Mugabe, who leads the ruling Zanu-PF party, is safe, an army spokesman has said.
But as yet, there is no official word from the government or the Mugabe family as to their whereabouts.
What has happened so far: The backstory
Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, an ally of the army chief and a veteran of the country’s struggle for independence, was sacked on November 8 by 93-year-old Mugabe for showing “traits of disloyalty”.
Mnangagwa, who fled the country soon after, was seen as a likely successor to the ailing president, and his ousting now appears to pave the way for First Lady Grace Mugabe.
Army commander Constantino Chiwenga said on Monday, November 13, that the military would act if purges against former war liberation fighters did not cease.
Zanu-PF on November 14 accused the army chief of “treasonable conduct” after he challenged Mugabe over the sacking of the vice president.
War veterans and Mugabe supporters:
War veterans, who fought alongside Mugabe during the 1970s liberation struggle and spearheaded the repossession of white-owned commercial farms in the 2000s, claim Mugabe has betrayed the revolution.
The ongoing purges of scores of Mnangagwa allies have widened the rift between the Mugabes and various groups of war veteran leaders.
Victor Matemadanda, secretary-general of the Zimbabwe National War Veterans Association, recently told Al Jazeera the ongoing expulsions were a strong indication that Mugabe was acting in his own interests and those of his wife.
On Tuesday, November 14, the youth wing of ZANU-PF party, said it was “ready to die” for Mugabe, after the military threat to intervene.
There were unconfirmed reports of explosions and shooting in the capital, Harare, on Tuesday evening.
Wednesday, November 15: The latest
On Wednesday, November 15, the Zimbabwe army seized state TV and blocked off access to government offices.
In a televised address early on Wednesday morning, military spokesperson, Major General SB Moyo, said the army was seeking to “pacify a degenerating, social, and economic situation”, and denied a coup. “We are only targeting criminals around [Mugabe] and are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country, in order to bring them to justice” he said. You can read the statement in full here.
The US and UK have advised their citizens in Harare, the capital, to stay indoors amid the uncertainty. “You should avoid political activity, or activities which could be considered political, including political discussions in public places and criticism of the president,” Britain warned.
As yet, there is no official comment from the government or the Mugabe family as to the president’s whereabouts.
Zimbabwean newspaper The Herald ran with the headline: “Zanu-PF unfazed by Chiwenga”, referring to the army general.
Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa, reporting from Harare, said the atmosphere on the streets felt tense. “I don’t think people expected this kind of military takeover. I’m Zimbabwean, I was born after independence from Britain, I’ve never experienced this kind of feeling in the air. At the moment, people are just wondering what is going to happen next.”
Mutasa also said, however, that it was business as usual for now. “There’s no outward panic, you’re not seeing people running away or fleeing.”
Several high-profile, Zanu-PF individuals have been detained and those at large are being pursued, according to reports.
For many Zimbabweans, the first priority was to head to the banks. Images sent to Al Jazeera showed queues of people waiting to be addressed by banking staff on the situation over cash withdrawals.
Main branches of international banks were closed, due to their proximity to government buildings.
Martin Muradzikwa, a mobile phone shop owner in Harare, told Al Jazeera he feared clashes between soldiers and Mugabe loyalists would break out.
Trevor Ncube, a Zimbabwean businessman living in South Africa, said flights in and out of Zimbabwe were operating as usual. Ncube is verified on Twitter, and is a critical voice on Mugabe. “Air Zimbabwe took off for Bulawayo this morning and the SAA flight from Harare landed a while ago,” he tweeted.
A journalist in Harare, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Al Jazeera that foreign hotel guests at the Cresta Lodge in Harare were leaving.
Al Jazeera has learned that South African President Jacob Zuma is expected to speak at 11:00 GMT. We will bring you that speech, as and when it happens, at aljazeera.com/live.
Professor David Moore, speaking to Al Jazeera from Johannesburg, said: “It’s an inside-the-party coup. The president has not been deposed. People have been deposed … I think [Mugabe] will not be deposed.”
The office of South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma has said Mugabe has indicated that “he was confined to his home but said that he was fine”.
In a statement posted online, the office also said South Africa is in touch with the Zimbabwe military. “President Zuma has reiterated his call for calm and restraint and for the ZDF [military] to ensure that peace and stability are not undermined in Zimbabwe,” the statement said.[Source: Al Jazeera]