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Tensions between Mugabe and Zimbabwe’s military reach a boil

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Photo: Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo

Photo: Reuters/Philimon Bulawayo

Tanks are deployed around Zimbabwe’s capital today after the military reportedly shut down state TV broadcaster ZBC, signalling an apparent showdown between the country’s military and civilian government. Mugabe’s party has accused Military chief General Constantine Chiwenga of “treasonable conduct”.

Civil-military tensions started when President Robert Mugabe dismissed Vice President and potential successor Emmerson Mnangagwa as part of a larger purge of party officials. Chiwenga sharply criticised the move and warned the military would intervene if Mugabe purged too many members with close ties to the armed forces.

The showdown comes at a time of economic discontent in Zimbabwe. Delays in government salaries have produced a cash shortage in the country, spiking prices and raising the memory of the hyperinflation that wracked the country in 2009. As a result, Mugabe will have less popular support to shore up his position.

It’s unknown whether this is merely a show of strength to pressure Mnangagwa’s reinstatement or a coup to topple Mugabe. Expect either a severe weakening of Mugabe’s position or a Turkey-style purge of Zimbabwe’s top military leadership.

Delve deeper: Mugabe’s Zimbabwe: Beyond the Grave

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