Zimbabwe crisis: Presidential seat of power cordoned off as UK, US react to army takeover

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The Zimbabwean army has cordoned off the presidential seat of power and parliament building after the military announced it had taken control of all government institutions.

The Zimbabwe police were not visible in the streets as soldiers controlled traffic movement while unconfirmed reports say a number of cabinet ministers and some top ruling Zanu-PF officials have been arrested.

Soldiers were said to be seen asking for identification from members of the public, although the situation remained peaceful and calm with people going about their daily chores.

‘Key arrests made’

Trevor Ncube, a Zimbabwean entrepreneur and newspaper publisher, has said he can confirm the arrest of two major figures in the country.

Ncube said Albert Ngulube, deputy director Central Intelligence Organisation, and Kudzai Chipanga, president of ZanuPF National Youth League, have both been arrested.

UK, US, UN, EU react

The UN has issued a security advisory instructing its personnel to work from home while some schools were closed and some students failed to sit for their final examinations, including at the University of Zimbabwe.

Similarly, the UK’s foreign and commonwealth office has updated its travel advice to British nationals in Zimbabwe.

It read in part: “Due to the uncertain political situation in Harare, including reports of unusual military activity, we recommend British nationals currently in Harare to remain safely at home or in their accommodation until the situation becomes clearer. Please continue to monitor our travel advice and embassy social media accounts for updates.

“You should avoid political activity, or activities that could be considered political, including political discussions in public places and criticism of the president. You should avoid all demonstrations and rallies. The authorities have sometimes used force to suppress demonstrations.”

In the same vein, the US says its embassy in Harare “will be minimally staffed and closed to the public on November 15. Embassy personnel will continue to monitor the situation closely”.

It also advised US citizens in Zimbabwe “to shelter in place until further notice”.

“Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. Avoid areas where demonstrations are taking place and exercise caution when in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations.”

The European Union, reacting through Catherine Ray, said the development is “a matter of concern”.

Ray said: “We call on all the relevant players to move from confrontation to dialogue with the aim to a peaceful crisis resolution.”

She said the “fundamental rights” of citizens and the country’s “constitutional order and democratic governance” needed to be upheld.

Mugabe has led Zimbabwe for the last 37 years.

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