Deposed Vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa back in Zimbabwe, Grace Mugabe has fled to Namibia and Robert Mugabe is detained by military in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s dictator Robert Mugabe has been detained by the military in a ‘bloodless correction’ of power amid claims his wife has fled to Namibia.

Mugabe’s decades-long grip on power appeared to be over this morning after military vehicles blocked roads outside the parliament in Harare and senior soldiers delivered a late-night television address to the nation.

Deposed vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, a veteran of Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation wars who was sacked by Mugabe earlier this month, has since returned from exile. His dismissal had left Mugabe’s wife Grace, 52, in prime position to succeed her husband as the next president – a succession strongly opposed by senior ranks in the military.

South African president Jacob Zuma said this morning he had spoken to Mugabe and that the 93-year-old leader is ‘confined to his home’ but ‘fine’.

Meanwhile, opposition MP Eddie Cross has told the BBC that he believes Grace Mugabe has fled to Namibia having been allowed to leave the country last night. The claim was repeated by Nick Mangwana, a Zanu-PF representative in the UK, but has not been confirmed by the army.

Last night Zimbabwe’s military stormed the country’s national broadcaster’s studios to declare it is ‘targeting criminals’.

This morning, the army was praised by the nation’s influential war veterans for carrying out ‘a bloodless correction of gross abuse of power.’ The military will return Zimbabwe to ‘genuine democracy’ and make the country a ‘modern model nation,’ said Chris Mutsvangwa, chairman of the war veterans’ association.

Last night, the military read a statement on live TV claiming this is not ‘a military takeover of government’ and said Mugabe was safe.

Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo, a leading member of the so-called ‘G40’ faction of the ruling ZANU-PF party led by Mugabe’s wife Grace, had also been detained by the military, a government source said.

The EU this morning called for a ‘peaceful resolution’ and described the crisis ‘a matter of concern’ for the bloc. Britain’s Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson appealed for ‘everybody to refrain from violence’.

Soldiers stormed the headquarters of state broadcaster ZBC in the early hours of Wednesday, two members of staff and a human rights worker told Reuters, as staff complained they were manhandled by the military members.

After taking control of the station, the military released a statement which denied a coup was underway, adding that Mugabe and his family were ‘safe and sound and their security is guaranteed’.

They added that the army were targeting 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 normalcy,’ the statement continued.

This morning, the TV state broadcaster played liberation struggle songs, while many citizens in Harare shopped at markets, drove to work or queued outside banks despite the turmoil.

But there were signs that Harare may already be preparing for life after Mugabe. This morning, pictures emerged on social media showing how his name had been removed from a street sign.

A sign to ‘Mugabe International Airport’ had been partially covered up to remove any reference to the dictator.
There was uncertainty over where Mugabe was being held this morning before South African president Jacob Zuma claimed the veteran leader was under house arrest.

‘President Zuma spoke to President Robert Mugabe earlier today who indicated that he was confined to his home but said that he was fine,’ the South African government said in a statement.

‘Zuma, in his capacity as Chair of the Southern African Development Community, is sending Special Envoys to Zimbabwe.’
South Africa will send its intelligence and defence ministers, the statement said.

South Africa is Zimbabwe’s powerful southern neighbour and is home to hundreds of thousands of Zimbabwean migrants.
It has long pursued a policy of quiet diplomacy with Mugabe as Zimbabwe has previously been engulfed by a string of serious political and economic crises.

Tensions have been rising in the land-locked African country after Zimbabwe’s head of the military, General Constantino Chiwenga, challenged Mugabe over his decision to sack Mnangagwa – nicknamed The Crocodile. The move was widely seen as a power play to make way for his wife Grace to succeed him.

Mnangagwa, who has close ties to the military, had been seen as Mugabe’s natural successor, and after he was ousted, he took aim at Mugabe and his supporters.

He said said Zanu-PF was ‘controlled by undisciplined, egotistical and self-serving minnows who derive their power not from the people and the party but from only two individuals in the form of the first family’.

The ruling ZANU-PF party hit back at Chiwenga’s threat, saying it would never succumb to military pressure and described the statement by the armed forces chief as ‘treasonable conduct’.

Tanks had been making their way to the city centre throughout Tuesday as tensions reached boiling point.

Then at least three explosions were heard in Harare overnight, sparking fears of a coup which sent shockwaves around Zimbabwe.
Armed soldiers were also reportedly seen assaulting passers-by in the capital and loading ammunition near a group of four military vehicles in an unprecedented challenge to Mugabe.

The Zimbabwean President’s house, where gunfire was heard this morning, was also surrounded by soldiers, but speculation suggested it was for his own protection amid suggestions his 37-year reign was coming to an end.

Zimbabwe’s envoy to South Africa, Isaac Moyo, had earlier reported there was no coup, adding that the government was ‘intact’.

Two hours later, soldiers overran the headquarters of the ZBC, Zimbabwe’s state broadcaster and a principal Mugabe mouthpiece, and ordered staff to leave.

The US embassy in Zimbabwe on Wednesday warned its citizens in the country to ‘shelter in place’ due to ‘ongoing political uncertainty’ as the crisis deepened.

‘US citizens in Zimbabwe are encouraged to shelter in place until further notice,’ the embassy in Harare said in a statement.

Last night, two witnesses described seeing a military convoy near Westgate shopping centre, six miles from central Harare.

One, a fruit seller, said: ‘I saw a long convoy of military vehicles, including tanks.’

Social media users said the army headquarters in the city centre were sealed off, with no one allowed in or out, and that road blocks were in place outside the barracks of the presidential guard.

Others said they had seen tanks heading towards the presidential guard compound in the western suburb of Dzivarasekwa. Conflicting reports from the impoverished southern African country claimed the borders had been sealed and the airport shut.
The military has been a key pillar of Mugabe’s regime and has helped him keep control despite economic ruin, widespread anti-government protests, opposition challenges and international sanctions.

But there has been growing disquiet over threats against senior figures inside Zanu-PF, including Mr Mnangagwa.

The veteran of the Seventies war that led to the country’s independence fell from favour after he spoke out against a party faction led by Mrs Mugabe, saying it was ‘plundering the country’.

After Mugabe accused him of using witchcraft in a plot to take power, Mr Mnangagwa fled the country with his family, but vowed to return and lead a rebellion against the Mugabes, backed by the country’s war veterans and armed forces.

Before he went into exile, Mr Mnangagwa told Mugabe that Zanu-PF was ‘not personal property for you and your wife to do as you please’.

His ousting was widely interpreted as a bid to ensure Mrs Mugabe would become vice president at a special conference of the ruling party next month, leaving her as the natural successor to her husband as president.

Surrounded by 90 senior army officers, General Chiwenga called this week for an end to the sacking of senior figures linked to the party’s ‘revolution’ against white minority rule in the Seventies.

He said: ‘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.’

Mugabe had previously warned military leaders against interfering in the fight for succession.

In July, he told supporters: ‘Politics shall always lead the gun, and not the gun politics. Otherwise it will be a coup.’
Opposition politicians have said a military coup would damage Zimbabwe because it would be undemocratic.

Last night the Foreign Office updated its advice for people travelling to Zimbabwe.

It said: ‘We are aware of reports of military vehicles moving on the outskirts of Harare. We are monitoring the situation closely.

‘You should avoid political activity, or activities which could be considered political, including political discussions in public places and criticism of the president.

‘You should avoid all demonstrations and rallies. The authorities have sometimes used force to suppress demonstrations.’

Mugabe is the only leader Zimbabwe has known in 37 years of independence – first as the chair of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANY), then as leader of the ZANY party as Prime Minister and then President.

Under Mugabe’s leadership the GDP of Zimbabwe has fallen by almost 50 per cent, according to the United Nations.

The country suffered badly during the recession and experienced hyperinflation and a widespread lack of food and other essentials.

Things have slightly recovered, but are still significantly worse than when the family took power.

Meanwhile, the Mugabe’s themselves live their lives bathing in eye-watering luxury.

The couple’s two sons, Chatunga and his brother Robert Jr, are well-known for their hard partying and have been seen flashing their riches on social media.

This week Chatunga posted a video of himself pouring hundreds of pounds worth of champagne over a £45,000 diamond-encrusted wristwatch,

The brothers caused an international incident earlier this year while in South Africa, after the disappeared on a wild night out, prompting Mrs Mugabe to go looking for them.

Finding 20-year-old model Gabriella Engels instead, Mrs Mugabe allegedly beat her over the head with an electrical plug when she was unable to say where the boys had gone.

That led to a warrant being issued for her arrest, though she was eventually granted diplomatic immunity and allowed to leave the country.

Mrs Mugabe is currently suing a Lebanese jeweller for failing to deliver a £1million diamond ring she bought to mark her 21st wedding anniversary with the dictator.

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