President Robert Mugabe has agreed to step down as president of Zimbabwe after negotiations between his representatives and those representing the military.
The negotiations were held at state House after the military refused to meet with President Mugabe at his “Blue Roof” home in Borrowdale because it was his residence and not for official business. Roman Catholic Priest Father Fidelis Mukonori was one of the mediators.
The other mediators were South African Minister for Defence Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and the South African State Security Minister Bongani Bongo.
This comes after the Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) seized power from Mugabe in the early hours of Wednesday. The military kept insisting that this is not a military takeover of government as it is only targeting the criminals around the president who had caused untold suffering to Zimbabweans because of their corruption.
Mugabe agreed to resign after his demands for safe passage for his family were granted by the military.
Earlier reports said that Mugabe had been insisting that the action taken by the military was illegal and that he was still the legitimate head of state. He wanted the Zimbabwe Defence Forces to admit that their conduct was illegal. Mugabe and his advisors are reported to have been insisting that he should finish his term as President
A source who spoke to Reuters earlier said:
It’s a sort of stand-off, a stalemate. They are insisting the president must finish his term.
The generals, on the other hand, would have none of it and wanted former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to be reinstated to his previous positions of Vice President of Zimbabwe and Second Secretary of Zanu-PF.
However, after his family’s safety was guaranteed, President Robert Mugabe agreed to step down to pave way for his ousted aide of more than 40 years Emmerson Mnangagwa.
A smiling President Robert Mugabe was pictured shaking hands with Zimbabwe’s military chief a day after the army seized power, throwing confusion over predictions that the 93-year-old’s nearly four-decade rule had come to an end.
Mugabe unexpectedly drove from his lavish “Blue Roof” Harare compound in Harare, where he had been confined since troops took to the streets, to State House, where official media pictured him meeting military chief Constantino Chiwenga and South African ministers sent to mediate the crisis.
The official Herald newspaper carried no reports of the outcome of the meeting, leaving Zimbabwe’s 13 million people in the dark as to what was happening as night fell on Thursday.
Mugabe is insisting he remains Zimbabwe’s only legitimate ruler and is refusing to quit, but pressure was mounting on the former guerrilla to accept offers of a graceful exit, sources said on Thursday.
Earlier, a political source who spoke to senior allies holed up in the compound with Mugabe and his wife Grace said he had no plans to resign voluntarily ahead of elections due next year.
“It’s a sort of stand-off, a stalemate,” the source said. “They are insisting the president must finish his term.”
The army’s takeover signalled the collapse in less than 36 hours of the security, intelligence and patronage networks that sustained Mugabe through 37 years in power and built him into the “Grand Old Man” of African politics.
A priest mediating between Mugabe and the generals, who seized power on Wednesday in what they called a targeted operation against “criminals” in Mugabe’s entourage, has made little headway, a senior political source told Reuters.
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai called for Mugabe’s departure “in the interest of the people”. In a statement read to reporters, Tsvangirai pointedly referred to him as “Mr Robert Mugabe”, not president.
The army may want Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, to go quietly and allow a smooth and bloodless transition to Emmerson Mnangagwa, the vice president Mugabe sacked last week triggering the political crisis.
The main goal of the generals is to prevent Mugabe from handing power to his wife Grace, 41 years his junior, who has built a following among the ruling party’s youth wing and appeared on the cusp of power after Mnangagwa was pushed out.