The head of the African Union said on Thursday that the body “will never accept the military coup d'etat” in Zimbabwe.
“We demand respect for the Constitution, a return to the constitutional order and we will never accept the military coup d'etat,” Alpha Conde said in an interview with French journalists in Paris. “We know there are internal problems. They need to be resolved politically by the ZANU-PF party and not with an intervention by the army,” added Mr. Conde, who is also Guinea’s President.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has been under house arrest since Wednesday. According to reports, Mr. Mugabe refused to resign under pressure from the military.
Still seen by many Africans as a liberation hero, Mr. Mugabe is reviled in the West as a despot whose disastrous handling of the economy and willingness to resort to violence to maintain power pauperised one of Africa’s most promising states.
A fighter, both literally and figuratively during a political career that included several assassination attempts, Mugabe now appears to have reached the end of the road.
No popular backing
With the army camped on his front door and the police showing no signs of resistance, force is not an option. Similarly, he has no popular backing in the capital, where he is widely loathed, and his influence in the ruling ZANU-PF party is evaporating.
ZANU-PF youth leader Kudzai Chipanga, a vocal Mugabe supporter, publicly apologised for opposing the army after being marched into the state television headquarters to read out a statement, sources at the broadcaster said.
He was then taken back to the army's main KGVI barracks in Harare, where Finance Minister Ignatius Chombo is also being held, an army source said.
Video footage obtained by Reuters from the houses of two key Grace Mugabe allies — cabinet ministers Jonathan Moyo and Saviour Kasukuwere — indicated that the army was also prepared to use lethal force if necessary.
Mr. Moyo’s front door was blown open with explosives, scattering glass across the entrance hall, while the inside walls of Mr. Kasukuwere’s house were pocked with bullet holes.
The pair managed to escape on the evening of the coup and make it to Mr. Mugabe's compound, where they remain under effective house arrest, one political source said.
Zimbabwean intelligence reports seen by Reuters suggest Mr. Mugabe’s exit was in the planning for more than a year.
Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former security chief and life-long Mugabe confidant known as “The Crocodile” who was axed as Vice-President earlier this month, is the key player.
According to the files and political sources in Zimbabwe and South Africa, once Mr. Mugabe's resignation is secured, Mr. Mnangagwa would take over as President of an interim unity government that will seek to stabilise the imploding economy.
Fuelling speculation that this plan might be rolling into action, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, 65, who has been receiving cancer treatment in Britain and South Africa, returned to Harare late on Wednesday, his spokesman said.
Ex-Finance Minister Tendai Biti added to that speculation, telling Reuters he would be happy to work in a post-coup administration as long as Mr. Tsvangirai was also on board. “If Morgan says he’s in, I’m in,” said Mr. Biti.
Despite lingering admiration for Mr. Mugabe among older African leaders, there is little public affection for 52-year-old Grace, an ex-government typist who began an affair with Mugabe in the early 1990s while his first wife, Sally, was dying of kidney failure.
Dubbed “Gucci Grace” on account of her reputed love of shopping, she enjoyed a meteoric rise through the ranks of ZANU-PF in the last two years, culminating in Mr. Mnangagwa's removal a week ago.