Zimbabwe’s military took over control of the country on Wednesday and said it detained President Robert Mugabe — but denied the actions amounted to a coup.
Zimbabwe Maj. Gen. Sibusiso Moyo said Mugabe was safely at home in South Africa, and rejected notions that it was a full military takeover.
“We wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover,” the general said. “We are only targeting criminals around [Mugabe] who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice.”
“As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.”
Wednesday’s actions escalated a political confrontation that’s been brewing over Mugabe’s apparent attempts to install his wife as his successor. The president’s wife, Grace Mugabe, reportedly escaped to neighboring Nambia.
The announcement came as Zimbabwe military forces patrolled Harare, where at least three explosions were reported early Wednesday — in what government officials have called a “bloodless” political transition.
Last week, Mugabe fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa after accusing him of disloyalty. Wednesday, a social media account purporting to belong to the ruling ZANU PF party said it’s installed Mnangagwa as interim president.
Amid the crisis, the U.S. Embassy urged its citizens to stay home, citing “the ongoing political uncertainty through the night.”
It is still unclear whether the move to put Mugabe under house arrest signals the military’s plan to oust the 93-year-old Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state who has led Zimbabwe since 1980.
South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma said he spoke to Mugabe.
“I hope that they will be able to respect the constitution of Zimbabwe so that this situation does not go beyond the situation where it is now,” Zuma said.
European leaders have called for peaceful dialogue and the European Union asked for “peaceful crisis resolution.”
“It’s very fluid and it’s hard to say exactly how this will turn out,” British foreign secretary Boris Johnson said. “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.”
By Sara Shayanian