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Zimbabwe opposition leader returns home after coup

Zimbabwe’s opposition leader and former prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai has returned to the African country to following an effective coup against long-time President Robert Mugabe.

A spokesman for Tsvangirai, who is the leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), said he had flown back home from South Africa late on Wednesday, adding that two other former government ministers had also returned to their country from Russia.

The privately-owned NewsDay Zimbabwe paper reported that Tsvangirai was “ready to enter negotiations to form a transitional government with former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa.”

Political tensions emerged in Zimbabwe last week after Mugabe fired Mnangagwa and accused him of plotting to take power, including through witchcraft. Mnangagwa, who enjoyed the backing of the military, had previously been considered the most likely to succeed the president if Mugabe resigned or died while in power. His sudden dismissal, however, raised speculations that Mugabe was clearing the way for his wife, Grace, to take the position.

This file photo, taken on June 2, 2017, shows Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (L) with his wife, Grace (R), at the Rudhaka Stadium, in Marondera, Zimbabwe. (By AFP)

The Thursday announcement came a day after the army seized power in the country in what was described by the leader of the African Union as a “coup.”

Military forces blocked roads to the main government buildings in the center of the capital, Harare, and sought to portray it as a “bloodless transition” away from Mugabe.

Meanwhile, Reuters cites a “source” said that Mugabe and his wife and two key figures from her G40 political faction are under house arrest at Mugabe’s “Blue House” compound in Harare.

The army has also detained Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo, a leading member of the G40, which is a faction of the ruling ZANU-PF party, run by the president’s wife.

ZANU-PF said in series of tweets on Wednesday that “E Mnagngawa will be president of ZANU PF as per the constitution of our revolutionary organization.”

Young women walk past an armored personnel carrier stationed by an intersection as Zimbabwean soldiers regulate traffic in Harare on November 15, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

Mugabe and his wife have been on the European Union (EU)’s sanctions list along with other key figures in Zimbabwe’s ruling elite, facing travel bans and asset freezes abroad.

The Zimbabwean president has called the sanctions, by the EU and separately by the United States over rights issues “wrong,” blaming them for his government’s failure to pay its workers on time, which led to a crippling strike last year.

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