LATEST from News24 Correspondent Frank Chikowore:
Harare – Zimbabwe’s national army was moving its tanks from the barracks to the southern African country’s capital on Tuesday following threats issued by the country’s military chief to take control of the country’s affairs in the wake of political tension in President Mugabe’s ruling party.
Some witnesses said they saw four army tankers along the Chinhoyi-Harare highway in the afternoon raising fears that the army was about to stage a coup’ in the politically volatile nation.
Meanwhile some Harare residents told News24 that some uniformed soldiers were deployed in street corners all day Tuesday. No comment was immediately available from army officials.
However, Zanu-PF Youth League secretary Kudzanai Chipanga told a news conference on Tuesday that his party’s youths would come out in “their millions” to defend President Robert Mugabe from a potential army take-over of the country’s affairs.
The militant Zanu PF youth leader also accused Chiwenga of working with fired deputy president Emmerson Mnangagwa in the latter’s question to lead Zimbabwe. More to follow….
Here is what AP is reporting:
Harare – Zimbabwe is on edge as army tanks are 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 Associated Press saw three tanks with several soldiers in a convoy on a road heading toward an army barracks just outside the capital, Harare.
While it is routine for tanks to move along that route, Tuesday’s timing heightens unease in this country that for the first time is seeing an open rift between the military and 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe.
Mugabe last week fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and accused him of plotting to take power.
Over 100 senior officials allegedly backing Mnangagwa have been listed for disciplinary measures by a faction associated with Mugabe’s wife.
Watch this video in which army commander Chiwenga is seen delivering his stament on Monday.
Chiwenga said that counter-revolutionaries wanted to destroy the ruling Zanu-PF . This was after Mugabe last week fired vice president Mnangagwa, was once viewed as a potential successor to the nonagenarian.
Earlier on Tuesday, Zimbabwe’s Zanu-PF youths said they were “prepared to die” in defence of President Mugabe’s government.
In a statement on Tuesday, Zanu-PF’s secretary of the youth league Kudzai Chipanga said that Zanu-PF youths did not take lightly the military’s threats.
“We as Zanu-PF youth league are a lion which has awakened and found its voice, therefore we will not sit idly and fold our hands whilst cheap potshots and threats are made against Mugabe,” Chipanga said.
Reuters reports that four tanks were seen heading toward the Zimbabwe capital Harare on Tuesday, witnesses said, a day after the head of the armed forces said he was prepared to “step in” to end a purge of supporters of ousted vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The report says that two other tanks were seen parked beside the main road from Harare to Chinhoyi, about 20km from the city.
One of the tanks, which was pointed in the direction of the capital, had come off its tracks. Soldiers, however, refused to talk to journalists, the report says.
Said Chiwenga: “The current purging and cleansing process in Zanu-PF which so far is targeting mostly members associated with our liberation history is a serious cause for concern for us in the defense forces”
He added: “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 current purging of which is clearly targeting members of the party with a liberation background must stop forthwith.”
Chiwenga on Monday demanded a “stop” to the purges in the ruling Zanu-PF party following the sacking of vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Chiwenga criticised the instability in the revolutionary party.He accused the party of expelling senior officials who participated in the 1970s war against white-minority ruled Rhodesia; saying “counter revolutionaries” were plotting to destroy the party.