Zimbabwe’s military has seized state TV and blocked off access to government offices in the capital Harare.
In a televised address early on Wednesday morning, military spokesperson, Major General SB Moyo, said the army was seeking to “pacify a degenerating, social, and economic situation” in the country.
“We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country, in order to bring them to justice” he said.
The army spokesperson said that once the military’s objectives have been achieved, the situation in the country would return to normal, before urging Zimbabweans to continue with their lives as usual.
Moyo also called on political parties to “discourage” their members from turning to violence.
“To the youth, we call upon you to realise that the future of the country is yours, do not be enticed by the dirty coins of silver, be disciplined and remain committed to the ethos and values of this great nation.”
Al Jazeera spoke to Enock Muchinjo a journalist in Harare, who said the situation in the city was “very tense” with troops on patrol in civilian areas.
“The streets are empty and people haven’t reported to work in fear of what is happening,” he said.
Nii Akuetteh, an African policy analyst based in Washington, told Al Jazeera that the military would be keen not to portray their actions as a coup in order to avoid attracting opposition.
“However, looking at their actions there is no way to call it another thing. If it is not a coup, the military should be back in their barracks,” he said, adding: “The military is supposed to be defending the country from external enemies.
“We don’t have any news at all suggesting that Zimbabwe has been attacked by external enemies. If there is a criminal operation, it is supposed to be (handled) by the police.
“Now, we should watch if there are divisions in the military, and if and when, Mugabe will make a statement and what he will say.”
At 93-years-old, Mugabe is Africa’s oldest leader, and has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980.