March 24, 2018
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Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has appeared in public for the first time since the army’s takeover earlier this week.

Mugabe, who was believed to be under house arrest, attended a university graduation ceremony in Harare on Friday, where he was welcomed by a cheering crowd of supporters.

Dressed in a blue academic gown and hat, he entered the ceremony venue surrounded by security personnel, and held a speech. 

Mugabe’s surprise appearance came after soldiers took control of the headquarters of the state broadcaster ZBC and blocked access to government offices on Wednesday, while denying it was part of a coup against Mugabe’s government.

The president appeared at the university without his wife, Grace Mugabe, whose whereabouts are still unknown.

The president appeared at the university without his wife, Grace Mugabe, whose whereabouts are still unknown.

‘Not a coup’

Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa, reporting from Harare, said Mugabe’s appearance was the army’s way of saying “this is not a coup”.

“They army says the aim of the military intervention was the arrest of criminal elements around Mugabe. It also suggests that if they have anyone in place to take over, it will probably take some time. This will not happen immediately, possible not before the ruling party’s conference in December.

“Mugabe is a master tactician, known for his intelligence. He’s been around for this long because he knowns how to play the game and he still has support from within the ruling Zanu-PF party. Those who do still support him have much admiration for him – they see him as an African icon.

“When he does go, on whatever terms that is, it will likely be a graceful exit. His supporters would want him to go with dignity and it will be carefully managed.

The president has so far refused to step down, amid mounting pressure from the army to allow a smooth and bloodless transition.

The military seeks to reinstate former Vice President Emerson Mnangagwa as first vice president and then as leader of a transitional administration.

According to an army statement broadcast on Zimbabwe state television on Friday, “significant progress” was made in mediation talks aimed at ending Mugabe’s military house arrest.

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