Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe is under house arrest, South African President Jacob Zuma has said in a statement after the Zimbabwean military appeared to have taken control of the country.
Chief of staff in the Zimbabwe National Army Sibusiso Moyo appeared on state television early Wednesday, saying that the position taken by the military since the statement made by Zimbabwe Defense Forces commander Constantino Chiwenga Monday had reached “another level.”
“Firstly we wish to assure the nation that His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe and Commander in Chief of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed.
“We are only targeting criminals around him (President Robert Mugabe) who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice,” he said.
He did not say where Mugabe was.
Mugabe last week fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, his political ally for more than 40 years, on allegations of disloyalty and deceit.
Chiwenga issued a statement on Monday, saying purges against senior ruling party officials should end “forthwith.”
On Wednesday, Moyo assured Zimbabweans at home and abroad as well as the international community that this was not a military takeover and that the situation would soon return to normal.
“To both our people and the world beyond our borders we wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover of government,” he noted.
“What the Zimbabwe Defense Forces is doing is to pacify a degenerating political, social and economic situation in our country which if not addressed may result in a violent conflict,” he said.
Leave has been canceled to all military personnel who were instructed to return to their barracks immediately.
Moyo urged the people to minimize movement but said those going to work and with essential businesses should carry on.
He urged other security sectors to cooperate with the military.
“Let it be clear that we intend to address the human security threat in our country and any provocation shall be met with an appropriate response,” he warned.
State television was playing liberation war songs all early morning, indicating that the military was in charge of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.
Moyo said an impending purge of civil servants by some top members of government would be stopped and the judiciary allowed to exercise its role without undue interference.
Traffic was moving smoothly in the suburbs but a motorist travelling to the Robert Gabriel International Airport said that soldiers were checking identification of people passing by.
Earlier reports said several loud explosions were heard in central Harare and gunfire was heard near Mugabe’s private residence early Wednesday.