Soldiers 'take over Zimbabwe's state broadcaster' as explosions heard in Harare

Soldiers 'take over Zimbabwe's state broadcaster' as explosions heard in Harare

Heavy gunfire and artillery were heard in northern suburbs of the capital, Harare, early on Wednesday.

The U.S. ambassador in Zimbabwe has instructed all employees to remain home on Wednesday due to "ongoing political uncertainty", the embassy said in a statement on its website amid speculation about a coup.

Soldiers are reported to have taken over the headquarters of Zimbabwe's national broadcaster ZBC, amid a growing political crisis.

The statement, read by Sibusiso Moyo, a major general and Chief of Staff Logistics, denied the action was a "military takeover of government" and assured "the nation that his excellency the president... and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed".

The US State Department said it was "closely monitoring" the situation in Zimbabwe and urged all parties to resolve disputes "calmly and peacefully".

Zanu-PF said Gen Chiwenga's stance was "clearly calculated to disturb national peace. and suggests treasonable conduct on his part as this was meant to incite insurrection".

Both the USA and British embassies in Zimbabwe have advised their nationals to stay indoors because of what they call the 'uncertain situation'.

Is there a military coup in Zimbabwe?

But her rise has brought her into conflict with the independence-era war veterans, who once enjoyed a privileged role in the ruling party under Mr Mugabe, but who have increasingly been banished from senior government and party roles in recent years.

The country has been on edge since Monday when Constantino Chiwenga, Commander of Zimbabwe Defence Forces, challenged Mugabe after he sacked the vice president and warned over possible military intervention.

President Mugabe has exerted nearly total authority over Zimbabwean politics for decades - but the sacking of his most senior long-time confidant "has laid bare the rivalries inside Zimbabwe's political establishment" and could spark repercussions beyond his control, says the Daily Mail.

Notably though, the lead item on the ZBC state broadcaster's evening news bulletin was an anti-military rally by the youth wing of Mr Mugabe's ZANU-PF party - however the channel then missed its usual 11:00pm (local time) bulletin, without providing an explanation.

Many observers saw the move as a step toward the installation of Mugabe's wife, Grace Mugabe, as vice president.

Tensions have been building in Zimbabwe since Emmerson Mnangagwa, a powerful figure in the ruling Zanu-PF party, fled to South Africa last week.

Three men and a woman were also arrested after they allegedly booed Grace Mugabe at a ruling party rally.

"The government's silence on the military deployments seem to confirm that President Mugabe has lost control of the situation", Robert Besseling, of the London-based EXX Africa risk consultancy, said.

In an address to the nation, an army spokesman said the military is targeting "criminals" around Mugabe, and sought to reassure the country that order will be restored.