PHOTOS: President Mugabe meets army chief, South African envoy and negotiators at State House
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe was shown meeting on Thursday with the army commander who put him under house arrest, as negotiations with a South African delegation and a Catholic priest at the state house pushed for a resolution to the political turmoil and the likely end to Mugabe's decades-long rule.
New photos of the meeting on Thursday afternoon has been circulated.
The photos did not show first lady Grace Mugabe, whose rapid political rise had alarmed many in the country who feared she could succeed her husband.
According to the Zimbabwe Herald the meeting was attended by Commander General Constantino Chiwenga of the Zimbabwe Defence Force, Father Fidelis Mukonori, South African Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and State Security Minister Bongani Bongo, Zimbabwe Defence Minister Dr Sydney Sekeramayi and Zimbabwe State Security Minister Cde Kembo Mohadi.
South Africa President Jacob Zuma, speaking in parliament, said the political situation "very shortly will be becoming clear".
Seizing on the political limbo to speak out, civil society groups and opposition leaders urged Mugabe to step aside after 37 years in power and for the country to transition into free and fair elections.
Mugabe has been in military custody, reportedly with his wife, since the army stepped in overnight on Tuesday. There was no sign of former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose firing last week angered supporters in the military amid concern that Grace Mugabe would take his place at a party meeting next month.
The military remained in the streets of Harare. Southern African regional officials were meeting in neighboring Botswana on the crisis.
A joint statement by more than 100 civil society groups urged the 93-year-old Mugabe, the world's oldest head of state, to peacefully step aside and asked the military to respect the constitution. A joint statement by churches also appealed for calm.
One analyst said he believed the negotiations "have pretty much reached an end point" to get Mugabe to step aside and that it was a "matter of hours or days."
Knox Chitiyo, associate fellow with the Africa program at Chatham House, warned that speculation remains high but said the aim was a peaceful, managed transition. He said the military wants a dignified exit for Mugabe, who has ruled since independence from white minority rule in 1980 and remains widely known, even praised, in Africa as a liberation leader.
Chitiyo said he doesn't know where the ailing Mugabe would go but that the destination is "likely driven by his health." Mugabe routinely seeks medical treatment in Singapore.
AP/Photo credit: state owned Herald