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Mugabe makes 1st public appearance amid pressure to exit

Friday, November 17, 2017

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe made his first public appearance since the military put him under house arrest this week, even as the military announced "significant progress" on talks for his departure and arrested some of his allies, and branches of the ruling party began to pass no-confidence votes in the world's oldest head of state.

Mugabe's appearance at a pomp-filled graduation ceremony, to polite applause, came during an extraordinary series of negotiations with regional leaders over his departure after 37 years in power.

Zimbabwe's military is taking pains to show respect for the 93-year-old leader by referring to him as the president and the commander-in-chief.

But some in the ruling ZANU-PF party signaled they were getting impatient with Mugabe, with party branches passing no-confidence votes in the provinces of Mashonaland East and Manicaland. Others among the country's 10 provinces, including Midlands, Masvingo and Harare, were said to be following suit.

Parliament is expected to resume sitting Tuesday. It is possible the ZANU-PF could use party procedures to impeach Mugabe with the support of opposition lawmakers.

Mugabe has asked for "a few more days, a few more months," the chairman of the influential war veterans' association in Zimbabwe told reporters.

Chris Mutsvangwa, an ally of the recently fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa who is expected to lead any new government, said "between now and tomorrow" they will warn Mugabe the game is over. "If he doesn't leave, we will settle the scores tomorrow."

Mutsvangwa also said three Cabinet ministers have been arrested in the military's efforts to pursue Mugabe allies. Education minister Jonathan Moyo, local government minister Saviour Kasukuwere and finance minister Ignatious Chombo "are in jail" along with a number of others. The information could not immediately be confirmed.

Today's graduation event appeared to allow Mugabe to project the image of leadership, even as calls for his departure grew stronger. Some Zimbabweans worried Mugabe, the only leader many have ever known, would somehow find a way to stay on.