Zimbabwe’s military has read out a statement on the country’s national broadcaster, ZBC, saying it has taken action to “target criminals”.
However, it said this was not “a military takeover of government” and President Robert Mugabe was safe.
The statement in full:
The military statement issued via state broadcaster Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) in the early hours of Wednesday began:
Good morning Zimbabwe.
Fellow Zimbabweans, following the address we made on 13 November 2017, which we believe our main broadcaster Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation and the Herald were directed not to publicise, the situation in our country has moved to another level.
Firstly we wish to assure our nation, His Excellency the president of the republic of Zimbabwe and commander-in-chief of the Zimbabwe defence forces, comrade RG Mugabe and his family, are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed.
We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice.
As soon as we have accomplished our mission we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.
Heavy gunfire and artillery were heard in northern suburbs of the capital, Harare, early on Wednesday. A statement read out by the military on TV said the army wanted to deal with people who “were committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country.
“As soon as we have accomplished our mission, we expect that the situation will return to normal.” The statement said 93-year-old President Mugabe and his family were safe and their security was guaranteed.
The UK Foreign Office advised Britons “currently in Harare to remain safely at home or in their accommodation until the situation becomes clearer”. The US embassy in Harare tweeted that it would be closed on Wednesday “due to ongoing uncertainty”.
It also advised US citizens in Zimbabwe to “shelter in place” until further notice.The worsening situation came after Zimbabwe’s ruling party accused the country’s army chief of “treasonable conduct” after he warned of possible military intervention.
General Constantino Chiwenga had challenged President 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.
Tensions were raised further on Tuesday when armoured vehicles were seen taking up positions on roads outside Harare, although their purpose was unclear.
Some staff at ZBC were manhandled when soldiers took over their offices in Harare late on Tuesday evening, sources told Reuters. Workers were told that they “should not worry”, a source added, and that soldiers were only there to protect the site.
The BBC’s Shingai Nyoka, in Harare, said the sounds of heavy gunfire and artillery had been heard in northern suburbs where a number of government officials, including the president, live.