Zimbabwean military takes over state broadcasting office, denies rumours of coup
Tension rising in Zimbabwe as the military has taken over the state’s broadcasting channel Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) in the country’s capital, Harare, on Wednesday. This comes after the country’s 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU-PF party accused the head of the military of treason. Even amidst gunfire explosions and patrolling, the military, in a televised address, said that they are not planning a coup and the action taken is to “target criminals around Mugabe.”
According to a Reuter’s report, soon after army tanks were spotted in Harare, the army stormed ZBC's office and ordered the staff to leave. The ZBC is considered a mouthpiece for Mugabe. Many employees were manhandled as well. Heavy gunfire was heard in the capital’s suburbs.
In the televised address, the military said that they wanted to deal with people who "were committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country".
Political tensions are high after President Mugabe fired Vice President Mnangagwa and accused him of trying to overthrow Mugabe last week. Mnangagwa has fled the country with his family and has said that his life was threatened. He enjoyed the support of the military and was also seen as a successor to Mugabe.
Yesterday, army commander Constantino Chiwenga in a statement threatened to “step-in.”
Who is Mugabe?
Robert Mugabe is Zimbabwe’s longest-serving political leader after its independence from the British in 1980 and the oldest living political leader. He is touted to be both a revolutionary and a despot.
As a revolutionary, he had helped Zimbabwe gain freedom from British colonialism, imperialism, and white minority rule in the country. He oversaw the guerilla warfare his group Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU) launched against the British government. Provided healthcare and education to his countrymen when he came to power.
However, as a dictator, he is accused of human rights abuses, crimes against humanity, suppression of political critics, economic mismanagement, corruption and anti-white racial discrimination.
In 1982, Mugabe sent his North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade army to the ZAPU stronghold of Matabeleland to crush dissent. In around five years, 20,000 Ndebele civilians were killed with many caling it a campaign of political genocide.
Mugabe was accused of snatching away the land of white Zimbabweans in 1996, which the President claimed was the only way to level out the economic playing field for the marginalized black
During the general election of 2002, Mugabe was accused of electoral fraud for casting illegal votes in the ballot boxes. Therefore, the European Union had placed an arms embargo and other economic sanctions on Zimbabwe, straining its relations with the rest of the world.
Mugabe is also accused of ordering the killings of the leaders of an opposition party in 2008.
With a series of allegations surrounding him, is a coup in the pipeline for Zimbabwe or is the military on Mugabe’s side?