Zimbabwean soldiers on the streets of Harare on Thursday © Reuters
South African envoys held talks with Robert Mugabe on Thursday as regional powers sought to help resolve a stand-off triggered by the military’s takeover of Zimbabwe, according to reports revealed by Financial Times.
Mr Mugabe’s motorcade was seen leaving his home in a Harare suburb, where he is believed to have been under house arrest since the early hours of Wednesday, heading towards State House.
It has also been revealed that the 93-year-old leader who has been in power for 37 years has been resisting military pressure to publicly resign, said Ibbo Mandaza, a former senior Zanu-PF member. A Catholic priest has reportedly been mediating between Mr Mugabe and army chiefs who seized control of the southern African country on Wednesday.
A military spokesman said on Wednesday the intervention was “targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country”. Insisting it was not conducting a coup, the army said Mr Mugabe and his family were in a “safe and secure place”. But the military has not made any statements since a spokesman addressed the nation on state television early on Wednesday.
Members the Southern African Development Community, a regional bloc that has called on the Zimbabwean army to avoid an “unconstitutional” change in government and urged “calm and restraint”, met in Botswana on Thursday to respond to the crisis.
The meeting was called by Jacob Zuma, the chair of SADC and president of South Africa, which has long worried about instability in Zimbabwe spilling over into its borders. Hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans have fled to South Africa during the past two decades as their country’s economy collapsed.
Mr Zuma, who dispatched the envoys to Harare, spoke to Mr Mugabe on Wednesday and said he “indicated that he was confined to his home but said that he was fine”.
Mr Mugabe’s apparent refusal to bow to military pressure, combined with SADC’s stance against an “unconstitutional” change, could delay a transition of power by weeks, analysts said.
“They want Mugabe to abdicate. If he refuses, what do they do now?” Mr Mandaza said.