Zimbabwe: Army chief accused of 'treasonable conduct'

Zimbabwe Army General Constantino Chiwenga Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces addresses a media conference held at the Zimbabwean Army Headquarters on November 13, 2017 i Image copyright AFP
Image caption Zimbabwe Army General Constantino Chiwenga warned of a military takeover

Zimbabwe's ruling party has accused the country's army chief of "treasonable conduct" after he warned of a possible military intervention in politics.

General Constantino Chiwenga had challenged President Robert Mugabe after he sacked the vice-president.

Gen Chiwenga said the army was prepared to act to end purges within Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party.

The party said the general's comments were "calculated to disturb national peace... [and] incite insurrection".

In a statement, the party said it would never succumb to military threats, and that it "reaffirms the primacy of politics over the gun".

The statement was signed by SK Moyo, the information secretary, on party letterheaded paper.

The US State Department urged all parties in Zimbabwe to resolve disputes "calmly and peacefully" and said it was "closely monitoring" the situation.

Mr Mugabe sacked Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week, amid a row over succession.

Mr Mnangagwa had previously been seen as an heir to the 93-year-old president, but First Lady Grace Mugabe is now the clear front-runner.

On Tuesday, BBC correspondents reported that a few armoured vehicles had been seen on a main public road outside the capital city, Harare, having left one of the country's main military barracks, Inkomo.

It is not clear where they were heading but they were not seen on the streets of the city itself. One of the vehicles had broken down on the side of the road.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption It was not clear where the armoured vehicles near Harare were headed

The Zimbabwean ambassador to South Africa, Isaac Moyo, told Reuters that the government was "intact" and dismissed any talk of a possible coup as "just social media claims".

Gen Chiwenga's warning of possible military intervention came on Monday at a news conference at the army's headquarters.

He said the "purging" within Zanu-PF was "clearly targeting members of the party with a liberation background", referring to the country's struggle for independence.

"We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in," he said.

Mr Mnangagwa is one such veteran of the 1970s war which led to independence.

Gen Chiwenga gave his address surrounded by 90 senior army officers.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Grace Mugabe is seen as a potential successor to her elderly husband

But the leader of Zanu-PF's youth wing, Kudzai Chipanga, said the general did not have the full support of the entire military.

"We will not sit and fold hands while threats are made against a legitimately-elected government," he warned.

The youth wing supports President Mugabe's wife, Grace, as his successor - something which the former vice president had opposed.

Mr Mnangagwa had told Mr Mugabe that Zanu-PF is "not personal property for you and your wife to do as you please" before he was forced into exile.

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