Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has refused to resign after he met top military officials who have seized control of the country.
The talks between the generals and the President were held in Harare on Thursday. Mugabe’s motorcade took him from his private residence to the State House for the talks, which were also attended by envoys from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional bloc.
“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.
Earlier this week, Mugabe was taken under house arrest by the Army after it took over the state TV and blockaded main roads with armed military vehicles.
The 93-year-old ageing leader who has ruled the country with an iron fist since 1980 was shown by state TV showed Mugabe walk alongside army chief General Constantino Chiwenga.
Zimbabwe was left stunned by this week’s military intervention but attention has swiftly shifted to the prominent figures who could play a role in any transitional government.
Mugabe’s age, poor health and listless public performances have fuelled a bitter succession battle between his wife Grace and former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who Mugabe sacked last week.
Mnangagwa, 75, was previously one of Mugabe’s most loyal lieutenants, having worked alongside him for decades. But he fled to South Africa following his dismissal and published a scathing rebuke of Mugabe’s leadership and Grace’s presidential ambitions.
The generals are strongly opposed to Grace Mugabe’s rise, while Mnangagwa has maintained close ties to the army and could emerge as the next president.
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.
The African Union said it would allow Zimbabwe’s southern neighbours in the SADC to mediate in the crisis. Smail Chergui, the AU commissioner for peace and security, said Africa was putting its faith in the efforts of the SADC, noting that its envoys had been able to meet Mugabe, after talks in Washington.
Eldred Masunungure, a lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, said the formation of a “pre-election coalition” could be a viable response to the crisis.
(With inputs from agencies)