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Is Zimbabwe heading for coup? Military sends TANKS to the capital after head of armed forces warned he would step in to end Mugabe's political purge

  • Several tanks and armed soldiers seen heading towards Harare, Zimbabwe
  • Yesterday, head of Zimbabwe's armed forces openly threatened to 'step in'
  • He responded to President Robert Mugabe's sacking of  his vice-president
  • It is widely seen as a move to make way for Grace Mugabe to succeed him 

Several tanks have been seen heading towards the capital of Zimbabwe, less than a day after the head of the military said he could 'step in' to end President Mugabe's 'purge' of opponents. 

Mugabe plunged the country into crisis last week by sacking vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, widely seen as a power move to make way for his wife Grace to succeed him.

Yesterday, the head of the armed forces Constantino Chiwenga, openly threatened to intervene in politics if Mugabe did not stop removing veterans from government.

 

Coup? A number of tanks were seen heading for the Zimbabwean capital of Harare on Tuesday, a day after the head of the armed forces threatened to intervene

Coup? A number of tanks were seen heading for the Zimbabwean capital of Harare on Tuesday, a day after the head of the armed forces threatened to intervene

Today, four tanks were seen moving towards Harare, while two other tanks were seen parked beside the main road from Harare to Chinhoyi, 14 miles from the city, pointing in the direction of the capital. 

Despite the reports of the tanks,  Zimbabwe's ruling party Zanu PF took to Twitter to deny rumours of a coup.

'Thanks for your concerns, there is NO coup happening in Zimbabwe. Please continue with your lives and face up to your own problems.'

Earlier on Tuesday the youth wing of Zimbabwe's ruling party accused Chiwenga of subverting the constitution for threatening military intervention.

Armed forces: A Reuters witness saw four tanks heading to Harare and two other tanks parked beside the main road from Harare to Chinhoyi, about 14 miles from the city
Armed forces: A Reuters witness saw four tanks heading to Harare and two other tanks parked beside the main road from Harare to Chinhoyi, about 14 miles from the city

Armed forces: A Reuters witness saw four tanks heading to Harare and two other tanks parked beside the main road from Harare to Chinhoyi, about 14 miles from the city

Military on the move: Yesterday, the head of the armed forces Constantino Chiwenga, openly threatened to intervene in politics if Mugabe did not stop removing veterans from government

Military on the move: Yesterday, the head of the armed forces Constantino Chiwenga, openly threatened to intervene in politics if Mugabe did not stop removing veterans from government

Now-sacked vice president Mnangagwa, 75, a long-serving veteran of Zimbabwe's 1970s liberation wars, had been viewed as a likely successor to Mugabe before the president fired him on November 6.

His downfall appeared to pave the way for Mugabe's wife Grace to succeed the 93-year-old president, the only leader Zimbabwe has known in 37 years of independence.

In an unprecedented step, Chiwenga then openly threatened to intervene in politics on Monday if the purge of war veterans did not stop.

Warning: Zimbabwe Army chief Constantino Chiwenga (right) addresses a media conference in Harare on Monday

Warning: Zimbabwe Army chief Constantino Chiwenga (right) addresses a media conference in Harare on Monday

Ageing: Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, 93, who has been in power since 1980, is in increasingly fragile health and makes regular trips abroad for medical treatment

Ageing: Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, 93, who has been in power since 1980, is in increasingly fragile health and makes regular trips abroad for medical treatment

Tensions over the succession of Mugabe, recently erupted into the open, and had pitched First Lady Grace Mugabe against  now-sacked Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa

Tensions over the succession of Mugabe, recently erupted into the open, and had pitched First Lady Grace Mugabe against  now-sacked Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa

'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,' Chiwenga said in a statement read to reporters at a news conference packed with top brass on Monday.

Grace Mugabe, 52, has developed a strong following in the powerful youth wing of the ruling Zanu PF party.

Her rise has brought her into conflict with the independence-era war veterans, who once enjoyed a privileged role in the ruling party under Mugabe, but who have increasingly been banished from senior government and party roles in recent years 

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Journalist, writer and broadcaster, based in London and Paris, her latest book is Touché: A French Woman's Take on the English. Read more articles from Agnes.

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