Zimbabwe president Mugabe under house arrest as military denies coup

Nov. 15 (UPI) — Zimbabwe’s military took over state television on Wednesday to announce President Robert Mugabe has been placed under house arrest in South Africa.

Zimbabwe Maj. Gen. Sibusiso Moyo said Mugabe was safely at home in Harare, and that no coup was taking place.

“We wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover,” the general said. “We are only targeting criminals around [Mugabe] 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.”

The president’s wife, Grace Mugabe, reportedly escaped to neighboring Nambia.

The announcement came as Zimbabwe military forces patrolled Harare, where at least three explosions were reported early Wednesday — in what government officials have called a “bloodless” political transition.

Last week, Mugabe fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa after accusing him of disloyalty. Wednesday, a social media account purporting to belong to the ruling ZANU PF party said it’s installed Mnangagwa as interim president.

Amid the crisis, the U.S. Embassy urged its citizens to stay home, citing “the ongoing political uncertainty through the night.”

It is still unclear whether the move to put Mugabe under house arrest signals the military’s plan to oust the 93-year-old Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state who has led Zimbabwe since 1980.

South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma said he spoke to Mugabe.

“I hope that they will be able to respect the constitution of Zimbabwe so that this situation does not go beyond the situation where it is now,” Zuma said.

European leaders have called for peaceful dialogue and the European Union asked for “peaceful crisis resolution.”

“It’s very fluid and it’s hard to say exactly how this will turn out,” British foreign secretary Boris Johnson said. “The most important point to make is that everybody wants to see a stable and successful Zimbabwe and I think we are really appealing for everybody to refrain from violence.”

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