Zimbabwe: Low-Key Coup Halts World's Oldest President *First lady Grace Mugabe Flees To Namibia  *93 Yr Old Robert Mugabe Under House Arrest *Buhari warns against unnecessary conflict

Nigeria (Blank NEWS Online) –By Albert OGRAKA, With Agency Reports: 

Mugabe

The global community have expressed concerns over
Zimbabwe’s military leaders seizure of control of the impoverished southern African nation, placing longtime leader Robert Mugabe under house arrest and deploying armored vehicles to the streets of the capital, Harare.

Mugabe, 93, the world’s oldest living leader, was unable to leave his home, according to Jacob Zuma, the President of neighboring South Africa. Troops were reportedly stationed at Zimbabwe’s Parliament and the presidential palace.

In a dramatic televised statement early Wednesday, an army spokesman denied a military takeover was underway.

But the situation bore all the hallmarks of a coup: The military was in control of state TV in Harare, a significant army presence was at the city’s international airport, and Mugabe has not been seen in public.

>>Key developments:
Military in charge: An army spokesman announced on the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corp. at 4 a.m. that it was conducting an operation to target “criminals” close to Mugabe who were causing “social and economic suffering.”

>>President’s location:
The spokesman said Mugabe and his family were “safe.” South Africa’s Zuma later said Mugabe had been confined to his home but was feeling fine. Zuma spoke with Mugabe by phone.

>>Situation on streets:
The capital was quiet, but there were lines outside banks with army checkpoints at key locations and armored vehicles on the streets.

Grace Mugabe

Robert Mugabe who sacked his vice president last week in apparent attempt to give power to his wife, is being confined to his house by soldiers who surrounded his official and private residences, as well as other government buildings.

Sources suggest Grace Mugabe, who was being positioned to eventually take over from her husband, has left Zimbabwe for Namibia.

The sacked vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, was reported to have returned to Zimbabwe on Wednesday morning from South Africa, where he fled after being stripped of his office.

The president of neighbouring South Africa, Jacob Zuma, said he had spoken to Mugabe, who was “fine” and that he was sending special envoys to meet both Zimbabwe’s president and its senior army officers.

The UK government warned British nationals to stay indoors until the situation becomes clearer. The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, called for restraint.

President Muhammadu Buhari has warned political and military stakeholders in Zimbabwe against taking any action capable of plunging the country into unnecessary conflict.

Buhari spoke in reaction to the military “take over” of government in Zimbabwe on Wednesday.

In a statement by his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, the president said there was need to ensure peace and respect for the constitution of Zimbabwe.

According to him, “every attempt must be made to resolve all contentious issues by constitutional means in Zimbabwe to save the country from avoidable political instability.”

Meanwhile, Zimbabwean army has cordoned off the presidential seat of power and parliament building in the capital while helicopters circled the city centre, after the military announced it had taken over control of all government institutions.

Zimbabwean defence forces seized control of the state broadcaster ZBC, with their spokesman Maj Gen SB Moyo screening a statement declaring they were “targeting criminals” around Mugabe.

In a statement broadcast overnight, Moyo insisted:
We wish to make this abundantly clear this is not a military takeover of 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 violent conflict.

But the statement made it clear the army had acted in response to a purge of Zanu-PF members, including the vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was sacked by Mugabe last week, and had been angered by the failure of state media to report on a warning issued by the army chief, Gen Constantine Chiwenga, on Monday:
The situation in our country has moved to another level … To members of the Zimbabwe defence forces, all leave is cancelled and you are all to return to your barracks with immediate effect …

Let it be clear we intend to address the human security threats in our country. Therefore, any provocation will be met with an appropriate response.

Armoured vehicles and troops have on Wednesday morning blocked roads in central Harare around government buildings and the presidential residence.

There are reports that at least one minister, Ignatius Chombo, who holds the finance brief, has been detained by the military.

Chombo is a leading member of the G40 faction of the ruling Zanu-PF party, led by Mugabe’s wife, Grace, who is vying to succeed the 93-year-old president. This faction is believed to be the target of the military’s action.

>>Updates:

Robert Mugabe’s grip on Zimbabwe ebbing away after military takes control
Head of state, who sacked his vice president last week in apparent attempt to give power to his wife, meets senior military officers after a day of house arrest

Soldiers have blocked access to Zimbabwe’s parliament, some of its government offices and courts in the capital, Harare. Access to the president’s official residence was also prevented by troops, Boris Johnson, the UK foreign secretary, told the House of Commons.

Johnson would not be drawn when asked by Labour’s Kate Hoey whether or not he would support, should Mugabe be removed, the elevation to the Zimbabwean presidency of the sacked vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who she said is “probably the one person in Zimbabwe who inspires even greater terror” than the current president. Johnson replied:

It would be wrong for us, at this stage, to comment specifically about any personalities that may be involved, save perhaps to say this: that it is not obviously a particularly promising development in the political career of Robert Mugabe.

The UK foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, has made a statement to the House of Commons on the situation in Zimbabwe.

He said the government has received no reports of any of the 20,000 British nationals living in Zimbabwe being injured. All embassy staff and their families are accounted for.

We cannot tell how developments in Zimbabwe will play out in the days ahead and we do not know whether this marks the downfall of Mugabe or not, and we call for calm and restraint.

Johnson claims Britain has only ever wanted self-determination for the Zimbabwean people, while Mugabe has subverted democracy and harmed the country’s economy. “We will never forget the strong ties of history and friendship with that beautiful country; accurately described as the jewel of Africa,” he told the Commons.

The foreign secretary also called for free and fair elections to be held as scheduled next year and said the UK would work to ensure they offer Zimbabweans a “genuine opportunity … to decide their future”.

One high-profile opposition leader said there was “a lot of talking going on”, with the army reaching out to discuss the formation of a transitional government after Robert Mugabe steps down.

Residents in Zimbabwe’s capital line up to withdraw money from the bank

Negotiations had been continuing for several months with “certain people within the army”, a second senior opposition official said.

The official said Mugabe would resign this week and be replaced by Mnangagwa, with opposition leaders taking posts as vice-president and prime minister. There was no independent confirmation of his claim.

Zimbabwe’s fragmented opposition has not publicly condemned the military move. Nelson Chamisa, the deputy head of the opposition MDC party, called for “peace, constitutionalism, democratisation, the rule of law and the sanctity of human life”.

Tendai Biti, an opposition leader, called for a “roadmap back to legitimacy”.

“What is key is that a traditional authority is set up which is inclusive with the opposition and the ruling party … We need a dialogue too with [regional organisations], the African Union and the United Nations. We can’t solve this problem on our own,” Biti said.

The former Africa minister James Duddridge has asked Theresa May during prime minister’s questions what support the UK government could provide to Zimbabweans to help the country’s recovery. May said the situation was fluid and urged restraint on both sides. She called for the avoidance of violence and said the primary concern was for British nationals in Zimbabwe. She advised any Britons in Harare to stay at home.

The EU, which first imposed sanctions against Zimbabwe in 2002 over its human rights record, has called for a “peaceful resolution” to the crisis. A spokeswoman, Catherine Ray, said:

It is a matter of concern for the EU. We call on all the relevant players to move from confrontation to dialogue with the aim to a peaceful resolution.

We are following very closely what is happening on the ground, underlining that the fundamental rights for the citizens need to be respected and the constitutional order and democratic governance to be upheld.

The foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, says he wants to see stability in Zimbabwe.

It’s very fluid and it’s hard to say exactly how this will turn out. The most important point to make is that everybody wants to see a stable and successful Zimbabwe, and I think we are really appealing for everybody to refrain from violence.

The shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, urged the UK government to continue providing assistance to British nationals in Zimbabwe.

Amid the uncertainty of these ongoing events, three things are clear: first, a descent into violence, recrimination and reprisals from any direction must be avoided at all costs; second, the continuation of authoritarian rule does not represent a sustainable way forward for Zimbabwe, no matter which faction ends up in control; and third, it must ultimately be for the Zimbabwean people to determine their own future government through free, peaceful and democratic elections.

Grace Mugabe is abroad, it is claimed

Opposition sources are saying Grace Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s first lady, is in Namibia. The claim is unconfirmed, but seems to partially match reports in other outlets.

The full statement on the situation in Zimbabwe from the South African presidency reads:

President Jacob Zuma, in his capacity as chair of SADC (the Southern African Development Community), is sending special envoys to Zimbabwe and Angola in light of the unfolding situation in the Republic of Zimbabwe.

The president is sending the minister of defence and military veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and the minister of state security, Adv Bongani Bongo, to Zimbabwe to meet Robert Mugabe and the Zimbabwean Defence Force.

President Zuma spoke to President Robert Mugabe earlier, who indicated that he was confined to his home, but said that he was fine. South Africa is also in contact with the ZDF.

The special envoys will also be sent to the Republic of Angola to see President João Lourenço, chair of the SADC organ on politics, defence and security, to brief him on the situation.

President Zuma has reiterated his call for calm and restraint and for the ZDF to ensure that peace and stability are not undermined in Zimbabwe.

SADC will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Robert Mugabe should be removed as Zimbabwe’s president and first secretary of the ruling Zanu-PF party, the secretary-general of the country’s War Veterans Association, Victor Matemadanda, said on Wednesday.

According to the Reuters news agency, Matemadanda added that the military takeover of power was for the good of Zimbabwe.

A UK government minister will provide an update on the situation in Zimbabwe in response to an urgent question by the Labour MP, Kate Hoey, in the Commons this afternoon.

The British embassy in Harare has released a statement reiterating the Foreign Office’s updated travel advice for UK nationals in Zimbabwe.

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E.I.C: Albert Eruorhe Ograka

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Blank NEWS Online founding Editor-in-Chief and Publisher, Albert Eruorhe Ograka, is a Graduate of Mass Communication. He also holds a Post Graduate Diploma (PGD) in Journalism from the International Institute of Journalism (IIJ).

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