Blasts Heard in Zimbabwe Capital as Army Denies Takeover

(Bloomberg) -- Explosions were heard in the Zimbabwean capital, Harare, early Wednesday after soldiers and several armored vehicles were seen in the city amid a deepening split between the military and the government of 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe.

News24 reported armed forces commander Constantine Chiwenga saying that the military had not taken over and that Mugabe and his family were safe. He added that armed forces were targeting the “criminals around them,” and said the situation will return to normal soon, Johannesburg-based News24 said on Twitter.

“I was woken up at about 1.10 a.m. by a distant explosion that shook the bed -- two others since then,” Roger Stringer, who lives in Harare’s Mount Pleasant suburb, said by phone.

Blasts Heard in Zimbabwe Capital as Army Denies Takeover

The reports of explosions came after Zimbabwe’s ruling party called Chiwenga’s criticism of Mugabe’s administration “treasonable” and intended to incite insurrection in the southern African nation. Reuters reported that soldiers have taken over the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corp. The U.S. embassy said in a Twitter post that it would have a minimal staff Wednesday “due to ongoing uncertainty in Zimbabwe.”

Chiwenga made his comments on Monday, a week after Mugabe fired his ally, Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, as vice president and expelled him from the ruling party. He said the military wouldn’t permit “hijacking of the revolution.”

That declaration was “clearly calculated to disturb national peace and stability,” Information Minister Simon Khaya Moyo, who’s also the secretary for information for the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, said Tuesday in a statement.

Mnangagwa’s ouster marked a dramatic shift in politics in Zimbabwe, where he had been a pillar of a military and security apparatus that helped Mugabe emerge as the nation’s leader after independence from the U.K. in 1980. He was Zimbabwe’s first national security minister.

Mugabe has broken with most of his allies who fought in the liberation war against the white-minority regime of Rhodesia, leaving the so-called Generation-40 faction of younger members of the ruling party championed by his wife, Grace Mugabe, 52, in the ascendancy.

Mnangagwa’s firing came amid growing tensions before elections next year when it may face a seven-party opposition coalition that’s capitalizing on public anger over cash shortages, crumbling infrastructure and a collapse in government services. The economy has halved in size since 2000.

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