People walk past an armoured vehicle on a street in Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. Picture: Xinhua/Philimon Bulawayo

Harare ‑ The South African government on Wednesday, denied reports that special envoys dispatched by President Jacob Zuma to meet with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and the Zimbabwean Defence Force were turned away by the military who have seized control of Harare.

SA State Security Agency spokesman Brian Dube told African News Agency (ANA) that reports saying the envoys were turned away at the airport in Harare were not true and that the South African ministers were in Zimbabwe. He could however not confirm that if the ministers had met with Mugabe.

In a statement issued shortly after noon on Wednesday, Zuma's office said in his capacity as the chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the president was sending Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and Minister of State Security, Advocate Bongani Bongo to Zimbabwe, as well Angola.

The situation in Zimbabwe continued to unfold after the military seized control of the capital Harare and key state broadcasters. 

“President Zuma spoke to President Robert Mugabe earlier today who indicated that he was confined to his home but said that he was fine,” the statement said. 

“South Africa is also in contact with the Zimbabwean Defence Force (ZDF)... The Special Envoys will also be sent to the Republic of Angola to see President Joao Lourenco, Chairperson of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security to brief him on the situation.”

Eyewitness News reported that the South African international relations and cooperation department confirmed that the special envoy arrived safely in Zimbabwe and had been welcomed.

"#Zimbabwe Spokesperson Clayson Monyela says Defence Minister Nosiviwe Maphisa-Nqakula and her State Security counterpart Bongani Bongo, are expected to start with stakeholder engagements at their hotel shortly. PP", Eyewitness News reporter tweeted at around 8.27pm after an interview with Monyela.

"#Zimbabwe This is contrary to some reports circulating social media- that the envoy has been turned away. PP," another tweet read.

"#Zimbabwe Monyela says several role players, including President Robert Mugabe and army officials, are expected to form part of engagements. PP."

Mugabe remained under house arrest at his Blue Roof mansion in Harare's Borrowdale suburb, with about eight members of the presidential guard seen outside the property.

At the newly-renamed Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport in Harare, security was tight, with travellers checking in and out subjected to heavy searches.

ZDF Major General Sibusiso Moyo, in a statement broadcast live on ZBC-TV and radio stations in the early hours of Wednesday, said the military's aim was to target “criminals around the president”. The statement came after the army seized control of state television, but denied that it had carried out a coup.

On Monday, the head of the defence forces, General Constantino Chiwenga, had warned that the army would take “drastic action” if factions in the ruling Zanu-PF did not stop a purge of party members with military backgrounds.

This followed last week’s sacking of war veteran Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa. He was locked in a power struggle with Mugabe’s wife Grace, who is supported by the youthful “G40” party faction. Mnangagwa had fled to South Africa but was reported to have returned to Zimbabwe to take control of the government.