Regional summit expected to formalize terms of Mugabe exit
In the first round of negotiations over how President Robert Mugabe will leave power, the Zimbabwean leader met yesterday with the army commander who put him under house arrest and mediators, including South African Cabinet ministers and a Catholic priest.
Meanwhile, an emergency summit of heads of state of regional countries was called by the 16-nation Southern African Development Community and is expected to formalize the terms of Mugabe's exit.
The summit puts regional leaders who have worked with the 93-year-old Mugabe for decades into the difficult position of either supporting what appears to be a coup or keeping the unpopular president, the world's oldest head of state, in office.
In the first images of Mugabe after the military moved in earlier this week, Zimbabwe's state-run Herald newspaper published photos of him smiling and shaking hands with army commander Constantino Chiwenga. The photos also showed South African Cabinet ministers and a Catholic priest whom Mugabe has used as a mediator before.
First lady Grace Mugabe was not pictured, however, amid speculation over the future of a woman whose rapid political rise had alarmed many who feared she could succeed her husband after he fired his longtime deputy last week.
Seizing on the political limbo, Zimbawean opposition leaders and civil society groups urged Mugabe to step aside after 37 years in power and for the country to have a transition period leading to free and fair elections.
Mugabe has been in military custody, reportedly with his wife, since the army seized control of the capital late Tuesday.