Zimbabwe's top general warned on Monday that the military would not hesitate to step in to end purges against former liberation war fighters in President Robert Mugabe's ruling party after Emmerson Mnangagwa was stripped of his vice president's post.
"The current purging which is clearly targeting members of the party with a liberation background must stop forthwith", General Constantino Chiwenga told a media conference attended by about 90 senior army officers at army headquarters.
Zimbabwe - whose economy has halved in size since 2000 amid cash shortages and collapsing infrastructure and services - is witnessing increased polarisation within ZANU-PF over who will lead the party when 93-year-old Mugabe goes.
Mnangagwa's sacking - he fled to South Africa after receiving death threats - boosts Mugabe's wife Grace Mugabe, who is supported by the G40 faction of ZANU-PF.
Speaking at the army's headquarters, General Chiwenga said the removal of people who were involved in the independence struggle, like Mr Mnangagwa, would not be tolerated.
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In a thinly veiled attack on the first lady, Chiwenga said the military would be forced to "step in" if Mugabe continues to allow "counter-revolutionaries" to destabilise the ruling party and Zimbabwe through reckless statements. "The current purging of which is clearly targeting members of the party with a liberation background must stop forthwith".
Gen. Chiwenga said Zimbabwe's history is hinged on the ideals of the revolution dating back to the First Chimurenga where thousands of people perished.
For her part, Mrs. Mugabe has dared the army to shoot her, calling for the military to stay out of politics.
"It is with humility and a heavy heart that we come before you to pronounce the indisputable reality that there is instability in Zanu-PF today and as a result anxiety in the country at large", he said. The choice of KGIV was also poignant for an unprecedented statement that can only be rivalled by late General Vitalis Zvinavashe's infamous "straight jacket' statement issued on the eve of the 2002 presidential election and credited with tipping the scales in Mugabe's favour against a popular opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai".
This is seen as a move by the military to pave the way for Mnangagwa to return to ZANU PF and contest for the party's presidency against Mugabe.