President Robert Mugabe is insisting he remains Zimbabwe’s only legitimate ruler and is refusing to quit after a military coup, but pressure is mounting on the 93-year-old former guerrilla to accept offers of a graceful exit, reports said on Thursday.
A report by Reuters News Agency quoted senior allies holed up with Mugabe and his wife, Grace, in his lavish “Blue Roof” Harare compound as saying Mugabe had no plans to resign voluntarily ahead of elections scheduled for next year.
“It’s a sort of stand-off, a stalemate,” the report quoted a source as saying. “They are insisting the president must finish his term.”
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 appears to 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.