Robert Mugabe makes first public appearance since military takeover

The veteran leader is reported to be clinging to power in Zimbabwe as he 'refuses to quit'

Robert Mugabe makes first public appearance since military takeover

A military officer adjusts the chair for Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, center-right, to sit after arriving to preside over a student graduation ceremony at Zimbabwe Open University. Picture by: Ben Curtis/AP/Press Association Images

Updated 10.40am

Robert Mugabe has made his first public appearance since an apparent military coup, turning up to a graduation ceremony.

The deposed leader is chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe and goes to the ceremony each year.

Wearing an academic gown and mortar board, he was cheered by the crowd as he opened the ceremony.

Mr Mugabe's public appearance comes amid reports he has been under house arrest since the coup began on Tuesday.

He reportedly refused to resign at a meeting with generals and was pictured for the first time last night.

In the images taken at State House in Harare, he appeared smiling with an army chief and South African envoys.

Mr Mugabe, 93, reportedly arrived in his motorcade from his private residence for the crunch talks, which also included officials from the Southern African Development Community (SADC).

Mr Mugabe has been in military custody, reportedly with his wife Grace, since the army stepped in earlier this week, as soldiers blockaded key roads and took over state television.

Army vehicles are still patrolling on the streets but Mr Mugabe is reportedly refusing to step down, according to a source close to the military, which denies it was a coup.

Soldiers sit on a military vehicle parked on a street in Harare, Zimbabwe | Image: AP/Press Association Images

Images of the meeting, published by Zimbabwe's Herald newspaper, showed him dressed in a navy blazer and grey trousers alongside army boss General Constantino Chiwenga.

In one photo, he was pictured smiling and shaking hands with the military chief.

South Africa President Jacob Zuma, speaking in parliament, said the political situation "very shortly will be becoming clear".

Grace Mugabe, who was reportedly being lined up as her husband's successor, was not in the photos.

There were reports following the military operation that Mrs Mugabe had fled to Namibia.

Deposed Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (front) pictured at a gathering in Harare in November 2017 | Image: Xinhua/Xinhua News Agency/PA Images

There was also no sign of former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose firing last week angered supporters in the military as concern grew that Mrs Mugabe would take his place.

Morgan Tsvangirai, a former prime minister and long-time opponent of Mr Mugabe, said he must resign "in the interest of the people".

He added that "a transitional mechanism" would be needed to ensure stability.

Wilf Mbanga, the founder, publisher and editor of The Zimbabwean newspaper, said he believed there were sticking points to Mr Mugabe resigning - the president wants security for his family and to keep his wealth, and assurances he won't be prosecuted when he steps down.

Mr Mbanga also claimed foreign ministers from the Southern African Development Community want Mr Mugabe to stay on until December when his ruling Zanu PF party has its congress and then he can step down - but the Zimbabwean generals want him to go now.

The Irish embassy in Pretoria, which is monitoring events in Zimbabwe, says Irish citizens should limit unnecessary movements, avoid areas where demonstrations may be taking place and exercise caution when travelling.