Zimbabwe military denies coup, says President Mugabe safe

Mugabe in 1980

Soldiers reportedly took control of the headquarters of the national broadcaster, ZBC, and an army spokesman said on air "this is not a military takeover".

Soldiers stand beside military vehicles just outside Harare, Zimbabwe November 14, 2017.

Earlier, heavy gunfire was heard in the Harare suburbs near to Mugabe's compound as the crisis in the African nation intensifies.

There has been no word so far from 93-year-old President Mugabe or his representatives.

The developments in the Zimbabwe capital fuelled speculation that a coup was under way against Mugabe, after the head of the armed forces threatened to "step in" over the sacking of an influential vice president.

"We call upon all the war veterans to play positive in ensuring peace, stability and unity in the country".

President Robert Mugabe listens to his wife Grace Mugabe at a rally of his ruling ZANU-PF party in Harare. He is the world's oldest head-of-state, who's been in office since the end of white minority rule in 1980, with the military perceived as a pillar of his power.

Grace Mugabe has described Mnangagwa as a snake that "must be hit on the head" and called him a "coup plotter" soon before he was sacked. Mnangagwa is a veteran of the liberation war.

Mugabe's government has remained relatively silent on the ongoing turmoil, but according to Reuters, Isaac Moyo, the country's ambassador to South Africa, has said that the government "intact" and that the coup rumors are false. The embassy will be minimally staffed and closed to the public.

The US embassy in Zimbabwe has told American citizens in the country to "shelter in place". Embassy personnel will continue to monitor the situation closely.

Mr Mugabe shakes hands with then prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 1980
Image Robert Mugabe shakes hands with then prime minister Margaret Thatcher in 1980

In recent months, Zimbabwe's press has reported on animosity between the vice president and the first lady. Reuters said another two military vehicles were parked 20 miles (32km) from Harare.

Workers were told that they "should not worry", a source added, and that soldiers were only there to protect the site.

The troop movements raise tension on a continent where for decades armies regularly overthrew civilian governments.

Grace Mugabe has drawn the ire of Zimbabweans for appearing to be out of touch.

It is not clear who is leading the military action.

A military intervention in Zimbabwean politics may be fraught with difficulties. The country is struggling to pay for imports due to a shortage of dollars, which has also caused acute cash shortages.

"There's a rupture between the executive and the armed forces", Mr Rupiya said.

Magaisa, the former political aide, said the treatment of those being detained will be telling of what comes next.

The Twitter statement insisted the military move was not a coup. A coup would be a very hard sell at home and in the global community.

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