The exit plan of Zimbabwe’s embattled President Robert Mugabe is currently being worked out.
Mugabe has been shown in talks with the commander of the country’s defense forces, a day after the military seized control of the capital.
Photographs published by the pro-Mugabe Herald newspaper are the first images seen of the veteran leader since he was placed under house arrest Wednesday morning and the military staged an apparent coup. The Herald’s editor, Caesar Zvayi, also tweeted the images.
Among the group of people in the photos is a priest, reported earlier to be brokering the talks for a transitional government, and two South African envoys.
Mugabe appears calm in the photos as he talks with army leader Commander General Constantino Chiwenga. The commander warned the President on Monday that the military could intervene after Mugabe dismissed Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, triggering the political tumult.
A source at the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) earlier told CNN that transition talks were underway, claiming that the embattled President’s exit was a “done deal.”
“There is a transition of power underway and it has tacit agreement from regional powers,” the opposition party source told CNN.
Key to any transitional administration will be former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was widely tipped to become the country’s next leader. Mnangagwa remains one of the most powerful figures in the country and derives much of his support from the military.
His dismissal fueled speculation that Mugabe was clearing the way for his wife, Grace, to take over the presidency in the event of his retirement or death. Mnangagwa has not been sighted in Harare since he was fired and his whereabouts are still unknown.
A crucial issue in the talks will be whether Mugabe will be allowed to serve out the rest of his term ahead of next year’s vote.
The MDC-T will also be looking to seize the opportunity the political upheaval has presented. The party’s leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, returned to Harare after Wednesday’s events. He had spent time abroad for cancer treatment.
Tsvangirai called on Mugabe to resign yesterday, but was cautious in public about his future role.
Despite the opportunity the turmoil presents for him, Tsvangirai called the military takeover “unconstitutional” and questioned whether a transitional government was even the right approach.
Opposition officials told the media they believed Mugabe would resign today, allowing Mnangagwa to be appointed president, with Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party, serving as prime minister in a transitional government that would have a three- to five-year term. The outgoing president and his family would be offered protection in his retirement, though Grace Mugabe is expected to leave Zimbabwe.
Members of the first lady’s G40 faction, who were detained during the military takeover, would be prosecuted in accordance with the law, the officials said.