HARARE, Zimbabwe — Allies of Zimbabwe’s president, Robert G. Mugabe, vowed on Tuesday that his government and the ruling party would not be intimidated by the country’s military leaders after they threatened to intervene in a heated political feud.
The long-simmering feud boiled over last week when Mr. Mugabe summarily expelled Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa from the government and the ruling ZANU-PF party, a move that was widely seen as clearing the path for Mr. Mugabe’s wife, Grace, as a possible successor.
Since his removal, the whereabouts of Mr. Mnangagwa, who like Mr., Mugabe was a veteran of the country’s struggle for independence, has been shrouded in mystery.
In a remarkable act of defiance, the commander of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces, Gen. Constantine Chiwenga, warned on Monday that “when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in.”
Neither the military nor Mr. Mugabe issued any public statements on Tuesday even as rumors of a possible coup flew on social media and in the streets of Harare. But Simon Khaya Moyo, the country’s minister of information, asserted in a statement that “the ruling ZANU-PF reaffirms the primacy of politics over the gun.”
Mr. Moyo, who is also the party’s national secretary for information and publicity, said the statement by General Chiwenga “suggests treasonable conduct on his part as this was meant to incite insurrection and violent challenge to constitutional order.”
“Purporting to speak on behalf of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces,” he said, “was not only surprising but was an outrageous vitiation of professional soldiership and his wartime record as high-ranking freedom fighter, entrusted with command responsibilities in a free and democratic Zimbabwe.”
Mr. Moyo’s statement, broadcast during the evening news hour on state television, came hours after a leader of the party’s Youth League made similar remarks at ZANU-PF headquarters in Harare.
Kudzanayi Chipanga, the youth league’s secretary, suggested that military officers unhappy with the government should first return to civilian life if they wanted to become politicians.
“General Chiwenga and all those in the security sector who wish to engage in politics are free to throw their hats in the ring and not hide behind the barrel of the gun,” said Mr. Chipanga, who became a favorite of Zimbabwe’s first family after he helped organize a march last year in support of Mr. Mugabe’s leadership.
The question of who will succeed Mr. Mugabe, 93, the nation’s leader since 1980, has long haunted Zimbabwe and its political class. The youth league accused the general of siding with a faction loyal to Mr. Mnangagwa. The league has urged that Mrs. Mugabe be endorsed as the new vice president in a party conference scheduled for next month.