Soldiers took control of the headquarters of the national broadcaster, ZBC, and an army spokesman said on air “this is not a military takeover.” The military said Mugabe, 93, and his family, are “safe and sound.” The apparent putsch, which the military is refusing to call a coup, marks the first time in Mugabe’s 37-year rule that a public rift was visible between the military and Mugabe. The ZANU’s party youth league said in a message: “The army is simply effecting a National Democratic Project and it’s doing so with peaceful aplomb.”
In the army’s overnight broadcast, the spokesman, Gen. Sibusiso Moyo, said the military expected “normalcy” to return as soon as the army had completed its “mission,” which is defined “to protect Zimbabwe from instability.” The military presence in and around Harare is growing. The U.S. embassy encouraged citizens to shelter in place, citing “the ongoing political uncertainty through the night.” Indications now are that Mugabe is trying to negotiate a graceful way out. Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe with an iron hand since 1980, driving a once-prosperous economy into near-bankruptcy while enjoying the illicit fruits of rampant corruption.