Mugabe's refusal to resign said to stall Zimbabwe transition

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe. (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, AP)
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe. (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, AP)

Harare - President Robert Mugabe’s refusal to publicly resign is stalling plans by Zimbabwe’s military to swiftly install a transitional government after seizing power on Wednesday, two people familiar with the situation said.

Mugabe, 93, is being urged to quit after 37 years in power so that the military can claim the change of power isn’t a coup, the people said.

The military leaders want him to quietly step aside to head off tension with the Southern African Development Community, which includes Zimbabwe and South Africa. It has previously intervened when the army took over in Lesotho.

The operation, which saw the state broadcaster seized and Mugabe detained, had been planned for weeks but was accelerated after Mugabe fired his deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa, said the people who spoke on the condition of anonymity.

His wife Grace, 52, said days later that she was prepared to succeed her husband. Mnangagwa, who fled the country, is allied with the military while Grace heads the so-called G-40 faction, which mainly consists of younger politicians who didn’t fight in the 1970s liberation war.

The military leaders, led by commander of the armed forces Constantine Chiwenga, intervened after his comments on the firing of Mnangagwa were declared “treasonous” by the ruling party.

Opposition leaders were given some warning as were political allies Angola and China, four people said. Members of the military brass are concerned that if Grace ascends to power an economic crisis that’s left the country with crippling cash shortages after it had to abandon its currency will worsen.

WATCH: High-profile opponents of Robert Mugabe have returned to Zimbabwe’s capital. Bloomberg’s Amogelang Mbatha reports.

Mugabe’s location is unknown as is that of Grace. President Jacob Zuma said he has been allowed to speak to Mugabe, who said he was being detained. The military has declined to comment on its plans.

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