By FARAI MUTSAKA
HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s army said Wednesday it has President Robert Mugabe and his wife in custody and was securing government offices and patrolling the capital’s streets following a night of unrest that included a military takeover of the state broadcaster.
The night’s action triggered speculation of a coup, but the military’s supporters praised it as a “bloodless correction.” South Africa’s president said he spoke with Mugabe, who was “fine” but confined to his home.
For the first time, this southern African nation is seeing the military oppose the 93-year-old Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state and one of the longest-serving authoritarian rulers. Mugabe has been in power since Zimbabwe’s independence from white minority rule in 1980.
The whiplash developments followed Mugabe’s firing of his deputy, which had appeared to position the first lady, Grace Mugabe, to replace Emmerson Mnangagwa as one of the country’s two vice presidents at a party conference next month. But the first lady has proved unpopular among some Zimbabweans, and Mnangagwa had significant support from the military.
It was not clear Wednesday where Mnangagwa was, though he fled the country last week citing threats to him and his family.
Armed soldiers in armored personnel carriers stationed themselves at key points in Harare, while Zimbabweans formed long lines at banks in order to draw the limited cash available, a routine chore in the country’s ongoing financial crisis. People looked at their phones to read about the army takeover and others went to work or to shops.
In an address to the nation after taking control of the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, Major General Sibusiso Moyo said early Wednesday the military is targeting “criminals” around Mugabe, and sought to reassure the country that order will be restored.
Mugabe and his wife appeared to be in the custody of the military. “Their security is guaranteed,” Moyo said.
“We wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover,” he 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.”
Moyo added “as soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.” The army spokesman called on churches to pray for the nation. He urged other security forces to “cooperate for…