He lambasted the sacking of senior party figures — which last week included the vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has close ties to the military — and ordered Mr Mugabe and his wife Grace to stop their criticism of the armed forces.

The general’s stance is a direct attack on President Mugabe who told the army that in no uncertain terms should it interfere in party politics because “politics lead the gun”.

“Targeting people with a liberation background must stop forthwith‚” Chiwenga said at a media conference in Harare.

Chiwenga added that Zanu PF has been hijacked by counter revolutionaries whose agenda it is to destroy Zanu PF from within. Therefore‚ with reference to some disturbances within the party during the liberation struggle‚ the army would play a similar role of putting those to an end.

“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‚” he said. 

The unprecedented move by the army since independence comes a week after Mnangagwa issued a statement saying that he would return home in a few week’s time to take over all levers of power.

“You (Mugabe) and your cohorts will instead leave Zanu PF by the will of the people and this we will do in the coming weeks as Zimbabweans in general now require new progressive leadership that is not resident in the past and refuses to accept change.

“Fellow Zimbabweans and specifically members of Zanu PF‚ the time is now to say NO to demigods and people that are self-centred and only think of themselves and their families‚” Mnangagwa’s statement read.

Earlier this year President Mugabe warned that he would retire the army generals for their involvement in Zanu PF succession politics. UK Times/TimesLive.co.za