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November 20, 2017

Mugabe 'won't give in to military pressue', army chief accused of treason

President Robert Mugabe talks to General Constantino Chiwenga in Harare, Zimbabwe, July 4, 2008. /REUTERS
President Robert Mugabe talks to General Constantino Chiwenga in Harare, Zimbabwe, July 4, 2008. /REUTERS

Zimbabwe's ruling party said on Tuesday it would never give in to military pressure and accused the head of the armed forces of treasonable conduct after armoured vehicles were seen heading towards the capital Harare.

The city was calm but the country has been on edge since Monday when Constantino Chiwenga, Commander of Zimbabwe Defence Forces, said he was prepared to "step in" to end a purge of supporters of a sacked vice president.

That unprecedented statement represented a sharp escalation of a rumbling political struggle over who will succeed President Robert Mugabe, 93, who has been in power since the country gained independence from Britain in 1980.

Mugabe chaired a weekly cabinet meeting in the capital on Tuesday. Afterwards, the ruling party, ZANU-PF, said it stood by the "primacy of politics over the gun" and accused Chiwenga of trying to disturb the country's peace and stability.

Mugabe fired Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa last week. The veteran of the country's 1970s liberation war was popular with the military and had been seen as a likely successor to Mugabe.

The army views his removal as part of a purge of independence-era figures to pave the way for Mugabe to hand power to his wife Grace Mugabe.

A Reuters witness saw two armoured vehicles parked beside the main road from Harare to Chinhoyi, about 20 km (14 miles) from the city. One, which was pointed in the direction of the capital, had come off its tracks.


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