Emmerson Mnangagwa, dismissed as vice-president last week in a move that was widely interpreted as clearing the way for the promotion of Grace Mugabe, is reported to have returned to Zimbabwe.

Observers will be asking if what is happening in Zimbabwe is a military takeover, or basically office politics that have run wildly out of control. The answer is both. The armed forces have taken power in the former British colony – they control the state broadcaster, the streets of the capital and, most importantly, the personal residence of the head of state.

The take-over seems to be a pre-emptive strike to stop Grace Mugabe, the president’s 53-year-old wife, and her clique taking pole position in the race to succeed the oldest living ruler in the world.

The opposition MDC party has said it wants to see a peaceful, constitutional “democratisation” of Zimbabwe following the army move, Reuters reports. In a statement, the MDC says it urges the establishment of a stable, democratic and progressive nation-state.

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The military in Zimbabwe appears to have taken control of the country’s airwaves amid high tension in the capital and reports of explosions and gunfire. Images from central Harare as morning breaks show tanks and troops on the streets around government buildings and the presidential residence.

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