Army tanks seen heading towards Zimbabwe's capital city, Harare on Tuesday. Picture: Supplied

Harare - Zimbabwe military officers read an address live on state TV in the early hours of Wednesday, saying they were not launching a coup but were "targeting criminals around" President Robert Mugabe.

"It is not a military takeover of government," said one general reading a statement.

"We wish to assure the nation that his excellency the president... and his family are safe and sound and their security is guaranteed.

"We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes... As soon as we have accomplished our mission we expect that the situation will return to normalcy."

Soldiers deployed across the Zimbabwe capital Harare and seized the state broadcaster, ZBC, on Wednesday after 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party accused the head of the military of treason, prompting frenzied speculation of a coup.

Just 24 hours after military chief General Constantino Chiwenga threatened to intervene to end a purge of his allies in Mugabe's ZANU-PF, armoured personnel carriers on main roads were seen around the capital.

Two hours later, soldiers overran the headquarters of the ZBC, and ordered staff to leave. Several ZBC workers were manhandled, two members of staff and a human rights activist said.

Shortly afterwards, three explosions rocked the centre of the southern African nation's capital.

Prolonged gunfire also erupted near Mugabe's private residence in the suburb of Borrowdale, a witness told AFP. No further details were available.

AFP and Reuters

Also read: 

Explosions in Zimbabwe capital, troops seize state broadcaster

We're ready to die for Mugabe, Zanu PF youth league warns #Zimbabwe army