Zimbabwe’s Army Chief has warned those responsible for “purging” the country’s ruling Zanu-PF party to stop, or the military will step in.

The rare intervention comes just a week after President Robert Mugabe sacked his deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

General Constantino Chiwenga, who appeared at a news conference with another 90 senior army officers, did not refer to anyone by name but is believed to be referring to President Mugabe.

Mr. Mnangagwa, once seen as a successor to Mr. Mugabe, has fled into exile.

According to the BBC, Mugabe’s wife, Grace, who is now the favorite to succeed her husband, referred to Mr. Mnangagwa as a snake which “must be hit on the head”.

Mr. Mnangagwa, nicknamed the “crocodile” because of his perceived shrewdness, has rebuked Mugabe, saying Zanu-PF is “not personal property for you and your wife to do as you please”.

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.

Grace Mugabe and former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa were once both seen as possible presidents

“The current purging, which is clearly targeting members of the party with a liberation background, must stop forthwith,” he told those gathered for the news conference.

“We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in.”

Mr. Mnangagwa previously served as defense and state security minister.

Mrs. Mugabe, meanwhile, has the support of the younger “Generation 40” or “G40” group of Zimbabwe politicians.

General Chiwenga also hit out at the “squabbling” between politicians, saying it had led to “no meaningful development in the country for the past five years”.

The crisis, he concluded, meant Zimbabwe was struggling with “cash shortages and rising commodity prices”.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and wife, Grace Mugabe

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