Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe.
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe.
Image: AFP/Getty Images

Confusion and chaos are dominating the news in Zimbabwe after the military took over the national broadcaster, ZBC, saying it wanted to “target criminals” around president Robert Mugabe.

Defence forces deny that they’re staging a coup, but the whereabouts of Mugabe and his wife Grace are currently unknown.

Amidst unofficial reports and rumours, the BBC and other news organisations are quoting an unverified Twitter account allegedly belonging to Zimbabwe’s ruling party, Zanu-PF:

The BBC’s Breaking News team even sent a push-up notification, as if the Zimbabwean account was an official source:

And it was also quoted in BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme:

The tweets deny that there’s been a coup and say there’s been a “bloodless transition of power”:

It’s puzzling to see a news organisation like the BBC quoting an unverified source in this way. The corporation famously has robust Editorial Guidelines which includes best practice around sourcing and attribution. They also have an extensive network of correspondents all around the world with an ear to the ground.

So presumably there is a solid editorial reason why they’ve decided to quote @zanu_pf which has long been flagged as a parody account, despite it’s official tone and style.

In 2014 the account called for hipsters to be shot after being forced to sing the national anthem:

Image: screengrab/twitter/@zanu_PF

That tweet has now been deleted:

More outlandish tweets feature Mugabe photoshopped as a surfer on a wave after the infamous fall in 2015:

Image: SCREENGRAB/TWITTER/@ZANU_PF

Or ranting against Eggs Benedict as a product of imperialism:

Image: SCREENGRAB/TWITTER/@ZANU_PF

Or against Jews:

Image: SCREENGRAB/TWITTER/@ZANU_PF

Both The Atlantic and Australian broadcaster ABC quoted the account and then issued retractions in 2012, when rumours of Mugabe being gravely ill and fighting for his life in a Singapore hospital swirled on social media.

The local paper NewsDay reported in 2013 that @zanu_pf was a fake account and real Zanu-PF officials were looking into the identity of its owner.

Meanwhile, @zanu_pf just tweeted that henceforth it will be loyal to vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is rumoured to have taken control of the presidency after he was sacked by Mugabe:

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