Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has made his first public appearance since the country’s army took over two days ago, attending a graduation ceremony in the capital Harare. The military said on Friday it was engaging with Mugabe and would advise the public on the outcome of talks “as soon as possible”.
Mugabe had been under house arrest for days. The army made its move after a power struggle over his successor. Mugabe walked slowly up a red carpet and joined the crowd in singing the national anthem, then opened the graduation ceremony at Zimbabwe’s Open University, where he is chancellor.
Neither the 93-year-old president’s wife, Grace Mugabe, nor Education Minister Jonathan Moyo, an ally of hers whose house was reportedly raided by the military, were present at the event.
Zimbabwe in anticipation of the outcome
The army acted after Mugabe sacked Vice-President Emmanuel Mnangagwa last week. Mnangagwa was seen as a potential successor and his sacking paved the way for Mugabe’s wife Grace Mugabe – who is four decades younger than him – to take over the presidency instead.
Zimbabwe President’s attendance at the graduation is an annual tradition but few expected to see him there, observers say.
Mugabe’s appearance at the graduation ceremony made it look like business as usual but it’s not, and this has simply added to the confusion about his future, BBC writes. This cunning and experienced leader has resisted the push to go immediately but he is facing unprecedented pressure to step down after nearly four decades in power.
Frustrated with the lack of progress, the commander of the defense forces, General Constantino Chiwenga, set a deadline of Friday for Mugabe to agree to a deal, “or we do it the hard way,” the source said to CNN, without details what would a possible violent takeover look like.
Parts of Mugabe’s party calling for resignation
Leaders of Zimbabwean President’s party are making plans to force him from office if the 93-year-old leader resists pressure from the army to quit, a senior party source said on Friday.
Zimbabwe’s official newspaper, the Herald, ran photographs late on Thursday that showed a grinning Mugabe shaking hands with military chief General Constantino Chiwenga, who seized power this week.
That suggested Mugabe was managing to hold out against Chiwenga’s coup, with some political sources saying he was trying to delay his departure until elections scheduled for next year.
The ZANU-PF source said that was not the case. Anxious to avoid a protracted stalemate, party leaders were drawing up plans to dismiss Mugabe at the weekend if he refused to quit, the source said.
“There is no going back. It’s like a match delayed by heavy rain, with the home side leading 90-0 in the 89th minute,” the source told Reuters.