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Zimbabwe's Political Future in Limbo

  • VOA News

Soldiers are seen on the street in central Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 16, 2017.

Zimbabweans faced a second day of political uncertainty Thursday, with rumors surfacing about how and when President Robert Mugabe would relinquish control after nearly four decades in power.

Mugabe was placed under house arrest Tuesday by military forces as they seized control of the southern African country in a swift and bloodless operation. Sources say Mugabe, the world's oldest head of state at 93-years-old, is refusing to resign and turn over power to a transitional government.

A street vendor reads a newspaper in central Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 16, 2017.
A street vendor reads a newspaper in central Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 16, 2017.

Various reports say Mugabe's former vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai have both returned from their self-imposed exiles to take part in a new government.

Reuters news agency is reporting that Mugabe and his wife Grace are being held at the deposed president's compound in Harare.

FILE - Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe, right, is seen with her husband, Robert Mugabe, at a rally in Gweru, Zimbabwe, Sept, 1, 2017.
FILE - Zimbabwean first lady Grace Mugabe, right, is seen with her husband, Robert Mugabe, at a rally in Gweru, Zimbabwe, Sept, 1, 2017.

The crisis began to unfold Monday, when General Constantino Chiwenga, the head of Zimbabwe's armed forces, warned that he would "step in" unless Mugabe stopped trying to purge the ruling ZANU-PF party of supporters Mnangagwa.Dozens have been arrested since Mugabe fired the vice president on November 5.

The longime ruler indicated he was planning to replace the ousted vice president with the first lady, which would put her in position to become president when Robert Mugabe retires or dies.

An armed soldier patrols a street in Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 15, 2017.
An armed soldier patrols a street in Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 15, 2017.

Zimbabwean tanks rolled through the streets of Harare the next day, blockading parliament and taking over the country's television station. But defense forces insisted their action was "not a military takeover of government."

Leaders of several Southern African nations gathered in neighboring Botswana Thursday to discuss Zimbabwe's political crisis.

A joint statement signed by leaders of more than 100 civil society groups urged Mugabe to peacefully step aside and pave the way for "an all-inclusive, all stakeholder process which will determine the future of Zimbabwe.

FILE - Grace Mugabe sits next to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa at ZANU-PF headquarters in Harare, Feb, 10, 2016.
FILE - Grace Mugabe sits next to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa at ZANU-PF headquarters in Harare, Feb, 10, 2016.

Mnangagwa, 75, was seen for years as a likely successor to the president, and maintains strong backing in the army. Grace Mugabe, 52, has support in the party's youth wing and is believed to have engineered the firing of another vice president, Joice Mujuru, in 2014.

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