HARARE - Zimbabwe is on a knife edge as negotiations continue between military commanders to find a new leader after the army put President Robert Mugabe and his family under house arrest in what could be a dramatic end to the veteran ruler’s reign. President Mugabe fired his deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa last week, which led to Zimbabwe's army commander General Constantine Chiwenga declaring that the military will "step in" if the revolution is under threat.
As tanks rolled through downtown Harare on Wednesday, the army that has taken over the state broadcaster swore that Zimbabwe was not experiencing a coup.
Yet, images emerging from downtown Harare show that the military is out in full force. While reports of explosions were heard from the previous night, there have been no reported incidents of violence. Universities have suspended exams and asked students to stay home.
Schools were kept open, but many parents chose to keep their children from attending. Elsewhere, ordinary Zimbabweans have started lining up outside the city’s banks to access whatever cash they can access in the already cash-strapped economy. It was reported that the oldest President in the world was under house arrest with his family. He told South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma that he is detained but fine. The streets to his home and parliament have been cordoned off.
In Paris, the head of the African Union, Guinea's President Alpha Conde, warned on Thursday that the continent "will never accept the military coup d'etat" in Zimbabwe and called for a return to the "constitutional order." Morgan Tsvangirai, a former prime minister and long-time opponent of Mugabe, told journalists in Harare that Mugabe must resign "in the interest of the people".
He added that "a transitional mechanism" would be needed to ensure stability. Tendai Biti, an internationally-respected figure who served as finance minister during the coalition government after the 2008 elections, called it "a very delicate time for Zimbabwe"."A way has to be worked out to maintain stability. That restoration requires a roadmap and to address the grievances that have led to this situation," he said.
Mugabe's advanced age, poor health and listless public performances fuelled the bitter succession battle between his wife Grace and vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa
The 52-year-old first lady publicly expressed her willingness to take on the job of vice president at the time and called Mr Mnangagwa a “snake” that “must be hit on the head.” Trevor Ncube, a Zimbabwe-based journalist has been told that a deal with President Mugabe is being finalised.
He tweeted: "I am reliably informed that a deal is being finalised. It appears Mugabe’s demands for safe passage for his family have been granted. Final details might be confirmed in a few hours.""Mugabe's last card is his ability to confer legitimacy on his successor. If he steps down by agreement, his successor can say he (or she) did not come to power through a coup; if Mugabe is forced out, then it will be coup and SADC [and] AU will have to act tough," says Derek Matyszak of the Institute of Security Studies Right now, Zimbabwe and the world awaits to hear whether Mugabe, the army, or sacked Deputy president will come into over the next few days or even hours.
However, life carries on as normally as possible, in a situation that is a coup in all but the name. Sources close to the military said Mugabe had described the takeover as illegal and was resisting pressure to resign.
He is thought to have rejected efforts by a Catholic priest – a long-term friend of his – to facilitate the mediation efforts. UPDATE: Mugabe refuses to stand down in talks with militaryZimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, refused to resign during a crunch meeting on Thursday with military generals who have seized control of the country.
"They met today. He is refusing to step down. I think he is trying to buy time," said a source close to the army leadership who declined to be named.
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