Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe arrived at a university graduation ceremony in the capital on Friday, his first public appearance since a military seizure of power that political sources say is aimed at ending his 37 years in office.
Wearing a blue and yellow academic gown and mortar board hat, the 93-year-old sat in large wooden chair at the front the hall. He was greeted by ululations from the crowd as he declared the ceremony open.
Earlier Friday, Zimbabwe’s military claimed that it was making “significant progress” in talks with Mugabe for his departure from power while it pursues and arrests allies of the president and his wife.
Talks with Mugabe continued, the military said in a statement reported by the state-run Herald newspaper and Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.
Zimbabwe’s military is “currently engaging with the Commander-in-Chief President Robert Mugabe on the way forward and will advise the nation of the outcome as soon as possible,” the statement said.
“Significant progress has been made in their operation to weed out criminals around President Mugabe,” it said, adding that the military had already arrested some although others remained at large. Those sought had been “committing crimes that were causing social and economic suffering in Zimbabwe.”
The military is seeking cabinet ministers and other top officials who had been associates of first lady, Grace Mugabe, part of a clique dubbed the G40 because many were in their 40s and 50s. They are of a different generation from the one that fought for independence from white minority rule.
Army troops and armored vehicles continued to patrol the capital, Harare, as Zimbabweans went about their daily business.
Ousted VP back in Zimbabwe
Zimbabwe’s former vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose sacking last week triggered the military’s takeover, has returned to the country, an aide told AFP Friday.
Mnangagwa, who is a leading candidate to succeed President Mugabe, flew back to Harare on Thursday after nearly a week abroad, as army chiefs and the president met to negotiate Mugabe’s exit from office.
The generals took over late on Tuesday after Mnangagwa was sacked by the president and Mugabe’s wife emerged in prime position to succeed her increasingly frail husband.
Government TV showed Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state, dressed in a navy blue blazer and grey trousers standing alongside army chief General Constantino Chiwenga.