US embassy in Zimbabwe tells staff to stay home due to ‘political uncertainty’

Soldiers were deployed across the Zimbabwe capital Harare and the state broadcaster was seized on Wednesday after President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party accused the head of the military of treason

By: Agencies | Harare | Published:November 15, 2017 7:24 am
Zimabawe military Soldiers stand beside military vehicles just outside Harare, Zimbabwe (Reuters)

The US ambassador in Zimbabwe has instructed all employees to remain home on Wednesday due to “ongoing political uncertainty,” the embassy said in a statement on its website amid speculation about a coup.

“US citizens in Zimbabwe are encouraged to shelter in place until further notice,” the statement said, adding the embassy would be closed to the public on Wednesday.

Soldiers were deployed across the Zimbabwe capital Harare and seized the state broadcaster on Wednesday after 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party accused the head of the military of treason.

Zimbabwe was on edge on Tuesday as armoured personnel carriers were seen outside the capital a day after the army commander threatened to “step in” to calm political tensions over the president’s firing of his deputy.

The southern African country is for the first time seeing an open rift between the military and 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe. The military has been a key pillar of Mugabe’s power since independence from white minority rule in 1980.

Mugabe last week fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and accused him of plotting to take power, including through witchcraft. Mnangagwa, who enjoyed the backing of the military and was once seen as a potential successor to Mugabe, fled the country and said he and his family had been threatened.

Over 100 senior officials allegedly supporting him have been listed for disciplinary measures by a faction associated with Mugabe’s wife, Grace Mugabe.

The first lady, whose political profile has risen in the past few years, now appears positioned to replace Mnangagwa, leading many in Zimbabwe to suspect that she could succeed her husband as president.

On Monday, army commander Constantino Chiwenga issued an unprecedented statement saying purges against senior ruling ZANU-PF party officials linked to the 1970s liberation war should end “forthwith”. “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,” the army commander said.

Mugabe did not respond to the military statement, and government spokesman Simon Khaya Moyo said only the president could respond. The state-run broadcaster did not report on the statement. The ruling party’s youth league, aligned to the first lady, on Tuesday criticiaed the army commander’s statement, saying they were “ready to die for Mugabe”.

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