President Robert Mugabe is insisting he remains Zimbabwe’s only legitimate ruler, an intelligence source said Thursday, and is resisting mediation by a Catholic priest to allow the 93-year-old former guerrilla a graceful exit after a military coup.
The priest, Fidelis Mukonori, is acting as a middle-man between Mugabe and the generals, who seized power on Wednesday in a targeted operation against “criminals” in his entourage, a senior political source told Reuters.
The source could not provide details of the talks, which appear to be aimed at a smooth and bloodless transition after the departure of Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since independence in 1980.
Mugabe, still seen by many Africans as a liberation hero, is reviled in the West as a despot whose disastrous handling of the economy and willingness to resort to violence to maintain power destroyed one of Africa’s most promising states.
Zimbabwean intelligence reports seen by Reuters suggest that former security chief Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was ousted as vice-president this month, has been mapping out a post-Mugabe vision with the military and opposition for more than a year.