Zimbabwe: Army chief accused of 'treasonable conduct'

Martha O’ Donavan gets into an American Embassy vehicle after presenting herself to prison officers

Several armoured vehicles drove down main roads near the Zimbabwean capital Harare Tuesday, as tension erupted between President Robert Mugabe and the military that has been a key buttress to his 37-year reign.

Mnangagwa had always been tipped as Mugabe's most likely successor but has in recent months increasingly come into conflict with first lady Grace Mugabe, who is vying to replace the 93-year-old president.

General Constantine Chiwenga, the head of Zimbabwe's military, warned on Monday that troops would intervene if long-term political allies continued to suffer.

Zimbabwe's ruling party described criticism of its conduct by armed forces commander Constantine Chiwenga as "treasonable" and meant to incite insurrection in the southern African nation, deepening the split between the military and 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe.

The party said his comments were "clearly calculated to disturb national peace..."

"We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that, when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in". However, there is speculation that this could also be a show of force from the military.

"As a result of the squabbling, there has been no meaningful development in the country for the past five years".

It comes a day after the head of the armed forces said he was prepared to "step in" to end a purge of supporters of sacked vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mnangagwa was subsequently fired from the party and has since left the country.

In response the party's Youth League accused the military chief of subverting the constitution.

In his statement, Chiwenga said the wanton dismissal of party members must be stopped with immediate effect.

Analysts said if Mugabe responded to Chiwenga's statement, he would be compelled to choose sides between war veterans and the young turks rallying behind his wife.

Mnangagwa took over as vice president from Joice Mujuru who was axed in 2014 after Grace Mugabe launched a campaign accusing her of plotting to topple the president.

Ninety-three year old President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe is in trouble.

Chris Mutsvangwa, the head of the war veterans' group, told reporters in Johannesburg last week that Grace Mugabe was "a mad woman" who had won power through a "coup.by marriage certificate".

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