TANKS have been seen storming towards Zimbabwe’s capital amid rumours dictator Robert Mugabe is facing a military coup.
Heavily armed soldiers and military vehicles are steaming towards the capital of Harare just 24 hours after the head of the army warned he was prepared to “step in” to overthrow Mugabe.
Mugabe’s sacking of his main oppinent for power, Emerson Mnangagwa, 75, has led to soaring tensions between his ruling regime and the armed forces in recent weeks.
Zimbabwe’s army chief Gen Constantino Chiwenga has accused Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years, of purging his vice president in his own interests.
Mugabe, the 93-year-old leader of the Zanu-PF party, is thought to favour his wife, Grace, 55, as his successor.
But the army want a head-of-state with a military background and more credibility on the international stage to lead the east African country into a new era.
Now images of military vehicles – including tanks carrying troops with assault rifles – have surfaced on social media in what appears to be an attempt to dipose the president.
Military vehicles are blocking off several routes into the city, with four tanks parked around 14 miles away on the main road from Harare to Chinhoyi.
That road, on the outskirts of Harare, leads towards the barracks housing the Presidential Guard, the troops tasked with protecting Mugabe.
“There were about four tanks and they turned right here, you can see markings on the road,” one witness said.
State TV broadcaster ZBC has also been surrounded by members of the armed forces, local reports say.
Zimbabwe troops are refusing to confirm whether a coup attempt against Mugabe is taking place, according to Reuters.
Since Zimbabwe became an independent nation in 1980, Mugabe, aged 93, has been the only leader it has known.
Today the president is thought to have held his weekly cabinet meeting in the capital, which witnesses say appeared calm.
But on Monday, Mnangagwa issued an unprecedented threat to Mugabe’s leadership over the shock sacking of his vice president.
“The current purging, which is clearly targeting members of the party with a liberation background, must stop forthwith,” 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.”
Mnangagwa, a veteran of Zimbabwe’s 1970s liberation wars, was popular with the military, which viewed his removal as part of a purge of independence-era figures.
The leadership was widely expected to be handed to Mugabe’s wife Grace, whose rise rhas brought her into conflict with the independence-era war veterans.
In recent years independence-era war veterans have been increasingly banished from Mugabe’s government and inner circle.
Meanwhile, Grace has developed a strong following in the powerful youth wing of the ruling party.
The head of ZANU-PF’s youth wing accused the army chief of subverting the constitution on Tuesday.
“Defending the revolution and our leader and president is an ideal we live for and if need be it is a principle we are prepared to die for,” Kudzai Chipanga, who leads the ZANU-PF Youth League, said at the party’s headquarters in Harare.