Zimbabwe’s military claimed to have seized power Wednesday against “criminals” surrounding President Robert Mugabe, 93, saying he and his family are “safe and sound.” Soldiers and armored vehicles blocked the roads to government offices and the parliament and arrested Finance minister Ignatius Chombo. After taking over national television, Maj.Gen.l SB Moyo, Chief of Staff Logistics, said in a broadcast: “As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.” A short time later, three explosions rocked the center of the capital.
Chombo heads a faction of the ruling ZANU-FP party that is led by Mugabe’s wife Grace, 52, who has been bidding to succeed her husband. The southern African nation has been on edge since Monday, when Chiwenga, Commander of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces, said he was prepared to “step in” to end a purge of supporters of the sacked vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa. Only a few months ago, Mnangagwa, a former security chief nicknamed “The Crocodile”, was favorite to succeed his Mugabe, but was sacked a week ago to pave the way for Grace Mugabe’s bid.
Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years since its independence, is reviled as despot with an atrocious human rights record who ran a thriving economy into bankruptcy.