Harare, Nov 16 (IANS) Zimbabwe on Thursday remained in political limbo after the military takeover that appears to have put an end to Robert Mugabe’s 37-year grip on power even as South African President Jacob Zuma called an emergency meeting of regional leaders to discuss the crisis.
As talks between Mugabe — who has been confined to his “Blue House” compound in Harare by the Army and senior military officers — continued for the second day, there were reports that he is resisting pressure to resign as President and wants to finish his presidential term.
A Catholic priest close to the veteran leader was involved in mediation efforts, the Guardian reported.
The Zimbabwean capital was tense but calm amid the political uncertainty. Troops secured the airport, government offices, Parliament and other key sites. The rest of the country remained peaceful. The takeover had been cautiously welcomed by many Zimbabweans.
Regional power South Africa appeared to be backing the takeover and had sent ministers to Harare to help with negotiations to form a new government and decide the terms of Mugabe’s resignation.
An emergency meeting of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional bloc was scheduled to take place in Botswana. It was expected to be attended by the Foreign Ministers of Angola, Tanzania and Zambia.
The African Union called for the “constitutional order to be restored immediately and … all stakeholders to show responsibility and restraint”.
Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition, arrived in Harare from Johannesburg on Wednesday night and was due to give a press conference later in the day. He has been tipped as a potential Prime Minister in a new political set-up.
The military declared on national television on early Wednesday that it had temporarily taken control of the country to “target criminals” around the 93-year-old President.
The intervention came after weeks of political turmoil, in which Mugabe sacked his powerful Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, clearing the way for Mugabe’s wife Grace to succeed him.
The move exacerbated divisions in the ruling Zanu-PF party.
Mnangagwa enjoyed wide support in the military and was reported to have returned to Zimbabwe. Reports that Grace Mugabe had fled to Namibia on Wednesday appeared false, with the Guardian quoting several sources as saying that she was detained with her husband in their residence.
The future of the first lady is a key element in the ongoing discussions between Mugabe and the military.
Singapore and Malaysia, where the Mugabes own property, are potential destinations if she is allowed to travel into exile.
Critics have accused Mugabe of hurling his country’s economy while using revolutionary rhetoric and indulging in corruption and coercion to stave off threats from opponents.
A high-profile opposition leader in Zimbabwe said there was “a lot of talking going on” with the Army reaching out to different factions to discuss the formation of a transitional government.
The official said Mugabe would resign this week and be replaced by Mnangagwa, with opposition leaders taking posts as Vice President and Prime Minister.
The Movement for Democratic Change’s leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, has been tipped as a potential Prime Minister in a new political set-up.
Zimbabwean opposition leader Tendai Biti told the BBC he wanted to see a transitional authority in place. “It is urgent that we go back to democracy. It is urgent that we go back to legitimacy but we need a transitional period.”
“… I think, I hope, that dialogue can now be opened between the Army and Zimbabweans, (that) dialogue can be opened between the Army and regional bodies such as the SADC and, indeed, the African Union,” he said.
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