Robert Mugabe took time out from the ongoing political coup in Zimbabwe to appear at a university graduation ceremony Friday, the 93-year-old president’s first appearance since the nation’s military placed him under house arrest.
Mugabe was not accompanied at the Harare Open University by his wife, Grace, whose ambitions to succeed her husband are at the heart of the recent turmoil. Mugabe was cheered by the crowd, according to reports.
Wednesday’s military takeover was triggered by the sacking of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa a week earlier. Since then, Mugabe has been confined to his residence in Harare, where generals have tried to persuade him to step aside quietly in favor of a new administration.
But the president, who has led the country since independence in 1980, has so far refused to go. The leadership of his ZANU-PF party was planning to force him to quit if he continued to resist, Reuters reported Friday.
“If he becomes stubborn, we will arrange for him to be fired on Sunday. When that is done, it’s impeachment on Tuesday,” the source said. “There is no going back.”
In a televised statement Friday, the military said it was “engaging” with Mugabe and would announce an outcome as soon as possible. It said significant progress had been made in rounding up “criminals” around Mugabe, the justification it gave for the takeover.
Local media published photos of Mugabe Thursday in transition talks with army leader Gen. Constantino Chiwenga at Zimbabwe’s State House, the first images of the president since the coup. Chiwenga, a close ally of Mnangagwa, appears to be pushing for the sacked vice president to take over after Mugabe’s departure.