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Mugabe ‘released’ from house arrest

President ‘looking relaxed’ as he presides over graduation ceremony

ZIMBABWEAN President Robert Mugabe made his first public appearance since Tuesday night’s coup yesterday, receiving an enthusiastic welcome from supporters.

Despite being under apparent house arrest, Mr Mugabe presided over a graduation ceremony at the Zimbabwe Open University in Harare with his bodyguard in tow.

People ululated as he took to the podium in a mortar board and gown.

Video footage showed the 93-year-old president, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, nonchalantly nodding his head to music during the ceremony.

Meanwhile, the chairman of the powerful Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, which backed the coup, said that three cabinet ministers had been arrested.

Chris Mutsvangwa said Higher Education Minister Jonathan Moyo, Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere and Finance Minister Ignatious Chombo were “in jail” along with a number of others.

Earlier, the army said that it was “currently engaging with the commander-in-chief President Robert Mugabe on the way forward,” and that “significant progress has been made in their operation to weed out criminals around President Mugabe.”

But, in an indication that the coup was part of a power struggle within the ruling Zanu-PF party, the Manicaland provincial committee, meeting in the eastern city of Mutare, called for him to go.

Mr Mutsvangwa said local branches in Midlands, Masvingo and Harare had also passed no-confidence votes in the president.

He claimed that Mr Mugabe had asked the military for “a few more days, a few more months” in power.

African Union President Alpha Conde backed Mr Mugabe on Thursday, saying that the bloc would not accept the coup.

Supporters of former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, whom Mr Mugabe sacked on November 6 after accusing him of plotting a coup, denied claims yesterday that he had returned to the country.

The whereabouts of Mr Mnangagwa and 100 or so of his allies who left the country after his sacking remains a mystery, though there is speculation that he is in South Africa or somewhere in Europe.

South African Communist Party general secretary Blade Nzimande told a public event that decades of intervention by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank were to blame for Zimbabwe’s economic woes.

He pointed out that both institutions were dominated by the US and former colonial power Britain, insisting: “These imperialist states must not be allowed to get away with murder.”

On an official visit to Botswana, South African President Jacob Zuma reiterated his opposition to an “unconstitutional change of government.”

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, for his part, urged “a quick return to civilian rule” for a “new path” of “democratic elections and respect for human rights.”

In China, which is a key Zimbabwe ally, Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang voiced hope that the crisis could be resolved “under the legal framework.”


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