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20.59 16 Nov 2017


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Robert Mugabe has been pictured for the first time since he was put under house arrest in an apparent military coup in Zimbabwe.

Amid calls for him to resign after 37 years of iron-fist rule, he appeared smiling in images that showed him meeting an army chief as well as South African envoys at the State House in the capital Harare.

The deposed president, 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.

File photo of Robert Mugabe, 29-12-1996. Image: David Giles/PA Wire/PA Images

First sighting

Images of the meeting, published by the 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.

The unnamed source said: "They met today. He is refusing to step down. I think he is trying to buy time."

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

Meanwhile the Irish Embassy in Pretoria has warned that the political situation "remains uncertain" and has advised all citizens to exercise caution.

Missing

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

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.

Resignation negotiations

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 – however, the Zimbabwean generals want him to go now.

Journalist David Bowden, reporting from Harare, said the coup appeared to be bearing fruit.

"The troops and armoured vehicles are still on the streets, but so are local people going about their business seemingly content that the political stalemate will not descend into violence,” he said. “At least for now."

Bowden added: "Robert Mugabe has reportedly been negotiating his future behind the high security walls of State House.

"But as yet, officially at least, he remains Zimbabwe's president; extending his 37-year tenure as the man in charge [...] one day at a time."


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