Zimbabwe military deny takeover in state TV address

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe with his wife Grace earlier this year

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe with his wife Grace earlier this year

The British foreign office told Britons "currently in Harare to remain safely at home or in their accommodation until the situation becomes clearer".

Mugabe, the longest serving leader in Africa, came to power in the 1980s after Zimbabwe's liberation.

Heavy gunfire and artillery have also been heard in northern suburbs, although the situation is unclear, BBC reported on Wednesday.

A USA embassy spokesman in Zimbabwe said the embassy would be minimally staffed and closed to the public on Wednesday.

Several ZBC workers were manhandled, two members of staff and a human rights activist said.

Tensions were raised further on Tuesday when armoured vehicles were seen taking up positions on roads outside Harare, although their objective was unclear.

There has been no word so far from 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe.

Tensions rose in Harare on Tuesday as armoured vehicles, military police and soldiers from Zimbabwe's powerful military drove through the outskirts of the capital.

In a message posted online Tuesday night, the embassy also instructed US government personnel in Zimbabwe to remain in their residences and work from home on Wednesday.

Speaking from a written statement, Moyo told soldiers that all leave was cancelled and ordered them to return to barracks. "They might be trying to give a fig leaf to the notion that President Mugabe is still the leader". Gen. S.B. Moyo said on state television.

Notably though, the lead item on the ZBC state broadcaster's evening news bulletin was an anti-military rally by the youth wing of Mr Mugabe's ZANU-PF party - however the channel then missed its usual 11:00pm (local time) bulletin, without providing an explanation.

The former intelligence chief and long-time associate of the president had been viewed as his most likely successor, and is thought to have significant support within Zimbabwe's security establishment.

The public dispute has presented a major test for Mugabe, who is in increasingly frail health. There is uncertainty as to where Zimbabwe will be going from now because the military are part of the old estate. The country is struggling to pay for imports due to a shortage of dollars, which has also caused acute cash shortages.

The Twitter statement insisted the military move was not a coup.

"But now‚ this caging that is happening‚ could maybe sway the army generals to say that Mugabe never went on the ground‚ into the bush with a gun fighting‚ but Mnangagwa was on the ground".

"So although it doesn't look like a coup, but it is a coup", said Zimbabwe analyst Alex Magaisa, a senior Zimbabwe legal analyst based in the UK. A coup would be a very hard sell at home and in the worldwide community. Areport said they would face charges of undermining the authority of the President, by singing "We hate what you're doing" as the first lady spoke.