In what reports indicate is a military coup despite denials by the opposition, Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, the world's oldest political leader at 93-years-old, is now reportedly "confined to his house" as the military has surrounded Mugabe's home and taken control of the streets of the capital city, Harare.
Early Wednesday morning, Maj. Gen. S.B. Moyo insisted in a public statement on state television that the military was not conducting a coup, but instead was simply insuring the protection of the embattled Mugabe.
"To both our people and the world beyond our borders, we wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover of government," said the general. "As soon as we accomplish our mission we expect situation to return to normalcy."
That mission, the military claims, is to protect the president from supposed "criminals" close to him. Moyo ordered all members of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces to return to their barracks, temporarily cancelling all leave. He assured the public that the safety of Mugabe was "guaranteed."
As CNN and others report, the situation has all the signs of a full-scale coup, likely connected to Mugabe's ouster of former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is popular with the military, and fueled by speculation that Mugabe planned to make his widely unpopular wife, Grace Mugabe, his successor.
CNN quotes one of the opposition leaders and Mnangagwa ally, Chris Mutsvanga of the Zimbabwe War Veterans' Association, who openly described the situation as a "bloodless coup" and blasted the long-time rule of the "self-serving" dictator. "The populace has long suffered under a self-saving dictatorship that had become an oligarch with dynastic delusions," he said.
Mugabe became Zimbabwe's first prime minister in 1980 after the country gained full independence from Britain. Espousing Marxist ideology and imposing authoritarian policies, he quickly consolidated power by crushing his political opponents. He became president in 1987 and abolished the role of PM for a time, maintaining his power for decades by allegedly rigging elections and suppressing possible opponents.
Under his dictatorial leadership, which has been characterized by a brutal police force, racial discrimination, including the confiscation of land owned by whites, and widespread human rights violations, the nation has suffered economically. Over the decades, his forces have murdered tens of thousands of citizens.