Amid exit strategy, Mugabe makes first appearance since arrest

By Sara Shayanian  |  Nov. 17, 2017 at 7:40 AM
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Nov. 17 (UPI) -- Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe made his first public appearance Friday since he was placed under house arrest in a military takeover.

Mugabe attended a graduation ceremony at Zimbabwe Open University in Harare, walked in the procession and was applauded by attendees -- as pressure rises for an exit plan for the 93-year-old president.

Thursday, Mugabe agreed to resign posts as leader of Zimbabwe and the Zanu PF party. His presidential term expires next year, and plans are being developed for his departure.

"The army wants him to relinquish power but there are some sticking points," expert Knox Chitiyo said. "This is a complete shock to him. He did not see himself leaving office this way."

Mugabe's motorcade was seen leaving his home Thursday for the state house, where he had talks with military chief Constantino Chiwenga -- the man who staged Wednesday's takeover -- and South African ministers sent to help mediate the crisis.

Allowing the president attend Friday's graduation ceremony may signal the military intervention was primarily directed towards Grace Mugabe, who the president had attempted to install as his successor -- an effort that led to Zimbabwe's crisis.

The Zanu PF ruling party may meet Friday to draft a resolution for Mugabe's impeachment.

The military seized control of the government Wednesday but insists it was not a coup. When Mugabe was arrested, Zimbabwe Maj. Gen. Sibusiso Moyo said the military was merely "targeting criminals around [Mugabe] who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice."

The military takeover came just one week after Mugabe removed Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to make room for Grace Mugabe's leadership of the Zanu PF, and, ultimately, the presidency.

Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980, has feuded with Mnangagwa -- who fled to South Africa after his dismissal -- after the former vice president vowed to challenge Mugabe's authority.

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