Hari Sreenivasan: The ruthless rule of the world's oldest head of state appears to be coming to an end. Zimbabwe's 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe is the only leader his nation has known since its independence from Britain in 1980. And, tonight, he is under house arrest in his gilded mansion, detained by elements of his own military. We begin with a report from Martin Geissler of Independent Television News in the capital, Harare.
Martin Geissler: There is a new authority in Zimbabwe today, and it wears military fatigues. The generals say this is not a coup, but with soldiers on the streets in Harare and army hardware stationed at the junctions, it looks a lot like one.
Maj. Gen. S.b. Moyo: We wish to make it abundantly clear that this is not a military takeover of government. What the Zimbabwe Defense Forces is doing is to pacify a degenerating political, social and economic situation in our country, which, if not addressed, may result in a violent conflict.
Martin Geissler: The other message the military wanted to broadcast today was that President Robert Mugabe is safe. The man who's ruled Zimbabwe with an iron grip for nearly 40 years is now under house arrest, but evidently still able to contact his friends and allies abroad.
President Jacob Zuma: I have also contacted his excellency, President Mugabe, whom I had time to talk to, and he is fine, but confined in his home.
Martin Geissler: Mugabe's government has turned this once-rich country into a place where people queue outside the banks to collect enough cash to buy bread. Increasingly frail, the dictator wanted to hand the presidency to his wife, Grace. But the events over the past 24 hours could see Mugabe replaced instead by Emmerson Mnangagwa, the deputy he sacked earlier this month. Longstanding Mugabe allies now speak out against him.
Victor Matemadanda: What Zimbabwe's been sliding into was a state of chaos. And, for that reason, war veterans here do stand with the Zimbabwe defense forces.
Martin Geissler: As the armored personnel carriers roll along Zimbabwe's roads, the military has called for calm, but nothing is certain here, not yet. The atmosphere in Harare is subdued. It's not oppressive, but it's certainly not celebratory. The people here are understandably cautious. They're just waiting and watching to see what happens next. There was gunfire in Harare overnight. Some elements of the security forces seemingly still loyal to the president, but many of the men who used to do his bidding are now trying to push this crippled country into a new era.
Hari Sreenivasan: Since Martin Geissler filed that story, there are reports that government ministers have been arrested and others are fleeing their homes. In addition, the police have reportedly been shut down, and their commissioner detained. For more on the situation on the ground and the wider country, I spoke earlier via Skype with freelance journalist Tatira Zwinoira. I began by asking him the general mood.
Tatira Zwinoira: Believe it or not, people are actually happy. They say it's a military takeover, but, in actual essence, it's a coup, because President Mugabe is an elected president. So, people don't want to use the word, but then, by definition of the actions, it's a coup. But people are not upset. People are actually happy. Actually, some people who were interviewed by some of the local media houses were actually saying that this was actually too long, it took too long, military intervention. So, people were actually happy. Businesses were carried on as usual -- although banks closed and other companies closed around 1 o'clock during the day.
Hari Sreenivasan: Are the people that took over fundamentally different from those people who are in power now?
Tatira Zwinoira: Well, at the end of the day, these are the same people who are being used by the government under ZANU-PF, the ZANU-PF party, the ruling party headed by President Robert Mugabe. These are the same people who are being used to kind of control the economy, control the government, and control the citizens of the country. So, you have to ask yourself then, are they going to bring anything different at the end of the day? I mean, if these are the same people who are being used, what can they bring which is different?
Hari Sreenivasan: Well, what can neighboring nations, say, South Africa, or even the African Union, do about this, or what are they interested in doing about this?
Tatira Zwinoira: Well, that's another reason -- before I answer your question, I just wanted to highlight this point. That's another reason why they're not calling it a coup, because they are afraid of the A.U., SADC, and international community coming in. If they call it a coup, then they will have precedence to come into Zimbabwe and say, look, hold on. This is what's happening in Zimbabwe. We should come in. Now coming back to your question, A.U. seems to be saying that, you know, this military intervention is not wanted. It's unwarranted. That things must return back to normal. Things must remain calm. SADC is saying the same thing. President Jacob Zuma of South Africa actually called for calm and actually promised to send two envoys, special envoys, to Zimbabwe to talk with Mugabe and try and mediate between the army and Mugabe. So, we wait and see what happens there. But, generally, they don't want this military intervention.
Hari Sreenivasan: All right, Tatira Zwinoira, joining us via Skype from just outside Harare, thanks so much.
Tatira Zwinoira: All right.