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Catholic priest mediates Mugabe's 'honourable exit'

  • Robert Mugabe was detained in his own home after the military staged a 'bloodless correction' yesterday
  • Deposed 93-year-old holed up with five high-ranking army officers in his £7.5million, palatial residence today
  • Whereabouts of his wife, Grace, remains a mystery, with Namibia refusing to say whether she has fled there
  • A Catholic priest is mediating a potential political exit for Mugabe, but the president 'wants a leadership vote'
  • Army chief visited Beijing last week sparking speculation that he asked China for approval to launch the coup

By MailOnline Reporter

Published: 02:56 EST, 16 November 2017 | Updated: 03:14 EST, 16 November 2017

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Robert Mugabe remains under house arrest today with a Catholic priest mediating the dictator's 'honorable exit' as it emerged Zimbabwe's military may have sought approval for their coup from China.

The deposed 93-year-old was holed up with five high-ranking army officers in his £7.5million, palatial residence, known as the Blue Roof, in the capital Harare.

The whereabouts of his wife, 'Gucci' Grace Mugabe, remains a mystery, with Namibian authorities refusing to confirm or deny that she fled there and some local reports claiming that she had remained by Mr Mugabe's side at the 44-acre, 25-bedroom mansion.

A Catholic priest is mediating a potential political exit for Mugabe, but the veteran leader is insisting he can only be removed via a party leadership vote, political and intelligence sources said today. 

Meanwhile there was speculation today that military chiefs may have asked China for its blessing before launching the coup. 

Robert Mugabe (pictured) remains under house arrest today while the army negotiate the dictator's 'honorable exit' as it emerged Zimbabwe's military may have sought approval for their coup from China
Robert Mugabe (pictured) remains under house arrest today while the army negotiate the dictator's 'honorable exit' as it emerged Zimbabwe's military may have sought approval for their coup from China

Robert Mugabe (pictured) remains under house arrest today while the army negotiate the dictator's 'honorable exit' as it emerged Zimbabwe's military may have sought approval for their coup from China

Last night, it emerged that Zimbabwean army commander General Constantino Chiwenga, who appears to have taken control of the country had visited Beijing last week. He is pictured shaking hands with Chang Wanquan, the Chinese minister of defence
Last night, it emerged that Zimbabwean army commander General Constantino Chiwenga, who appears to have taken control of the country had visited Beijing last week. He is pictured shaking hands with Chang Wanquan, the Chinese minister of defence

Last night, it emerged that Zimbabwean army commander General Constantino Chiwenga, who appears to have taken control of the country had visited Beijing last week. He is pictured shaking hands with Chang Wanquan, the Chinese minister of defence

The Chinese military held a welcoming ceremony for General Constantine Chiwenga during his visit last week. China's Foreign Ministry has said that the visit was merely a 'normal military exchange'
The Chinese military held a welcoming ceremony for General Constantine Chiwenga during his visit last week. China's Foreign Ministry has said that the visit was merely a 'normal military exchange'

The Chinese military held a welcoming ceremony for General Constantine Chiwenga during his visit last week. China's Foreign Ministry has said that the visit was merely a 'normal military exchange'

The deposed 93-year-old was holed up in his £7.5million, palatial residence, known as the Blue Roof in the capital Harare as with five high-ranking army officers. Tanks and soldiers were seen on the streets of the city yesterday

The whereabouts of the 93-year-old's wife, 'Gucci' Grace Mugabe (right), remains a mystery, with Namibian authorities refusing to confirm or deny that she fled there and some local reports claiming that she had remained by Mr Mugabe's side at the 44-acre, 25-bedroom mansion, known as the Blue Roof 
The whereabouts of the 93-year-old's wife, 'Gucci' Grace Mugabe (right), remains a mystery, with Namibian authorities refusing to confirm or deny that she fled there and some local reports claiming that she had remained by Mr Mugabe's side at the 44-acre, 25-bedroom mansion, known as the Blue Roof 

The whereabouts of the 93-year-old's wife, 'Gucci' Grace Mugabe (right), remains a mystery, with Namibian authorities refusing to confirm or deny that she fled there and some local reports claiming that she had remained by Mr Mugabe's side at the 44-acre, 25-bedroom mansion, known as the Blue Roof 

Robert Mugabe is under house arrest in his palatial mansion (pictured), a sprawling 44-acre estate with 25 bedrooms
Robert Mugabe is under house arrest in his palatial mansion (pictured), a sprawling 44-acre estate with 25 bedrooms

Robert Mugabe is under house arrest in his palatial mansion (pictured), a sprawling 44-acre estate with 25 bedrooms

China's Foreign Ministry has said that the visit last week of General Constantino Chiwenga, who appears to have taken control of Zimbabwe, was merely a 'normal military exchange'.

But analysts have suggested that China may have given Chiwenga its tacit blessing to launch the coup, the Daily Telegraph reports. 

Asked whether Chiwenga briefed Chinese officials on any plans for a military takeover in Zimbabwe, government spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters that the Defense Ministry had handled arrangements for the visit and he was 'not aware of the details.'

'What I can tell you is that his visit was a normal military exchange as agreed by the two countries,' Geng said at a regularly scheduled news conference.

In a November 10 posting on its microblog, the Defense Ministry showed Chiwenga smiling and shaking hands with Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan at the ministry in central Beijing. A separate photo showed the two seated with their delegations at a conference table.

A picture taken by lawyer Fadzayi Mahere appeared to show a line of police officers sitting on the ground in the capital being watched by soldiers yesterday. Mahere, who aims to be an MP in the city, took the picture from the window of her office. It is not known what happened to the men
A picture taken by lawyer Fadzayi Mahere appeared to show a line of police officers sitting on the ground in the capital being watched by soldiers yesterday. Mahere, who aims to be an MP in the city, took the picture from the window of her office. It is not known what happened to the men

A picture taken by lawyer Fadzayi Mahere appeared to show a line of police officers sitting on the ground in the capital being watched by soldiers yesterday. Mahere, who aims to be an MP in the city, took the picture from the window of her office. It is not known what happened to the men

This was the scene in the centre of Harare in Zimbabwe this morning as soldiers patrolled the streets after a 'bloodless transition' of power
This was the scene in the centre of Harare in Zimbabwe this morning as soldiers patrolled the streets after a 'bloodless transition' of power
This was the scene in the centre of Harare in Zimbabwe this morning as soldiers patrolled the streets after a 'bloodless transition' of power
This was the scene in the centre of Harare in Zimbabwe this morning as soldiers patrolled the streets after a 'bloodless transition' of power

This was the scene in the centre of Harare in Zimbabwe yesterday as soldiers patrolled the streets after a 'bloodless correction' of power

China has been a resolute supporter of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe despite rising international criticism over his authoritarian rule and human rights violations. Military ties between the sides date from Chinese support for Zimbabwe's armed struggle against white minority rule in the 1970s.

Mugabe and his family also have close ties to the Chinese special administrative region of Hong Kong, where they were involved in a legal case involving a luxury property and his daughter Bona was a university student.

Mugabe's wife Grace was also accused by a photographer of assaulting him during a shopping excursion in the city in 2009. Mugabe left the territory without being charged.

This morning, sources suggested that the officials were intending to hammer out a 'roadmap' that would detail an interim administration pending snap elections, thought to be called before the national poll is scheduled next June.

Central Harare remained calm this morning, with citizens going about their day-to-day lives in a state of bewilderment.

Access was only prohibited in the streets around major government buildings, though major highways roadblocks are now being manned by armed military police.

The army has been at pains to describe the takeover as a 'democratic correction' but other officials branded it a coup. 

'This is a coup. They have taken over those guys, and it is not reversible,' one unnamed senior diplomat told a local paper. 

The world's oldest dictator: Tyrant whose savage rule was dominated by bloodshed and vote-rigging

Robert Mugabe's legacy as one of the most ruthless tyrants of modern times will remain long after his days as notorious statesman of Zimbabwe are over.

What could turn out to be the 93-year-old leader's final night in charge of the troubled south African nation concluded in typically chaotic fashion with the army saying it had Mugabe and his ambitious wife Grace in custody following a takeover of the state broadcaster.

Tensions escalated after the first lady appeared to be positioned to replace Mugabe's recently fired deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa, leading many in Zimbabwe to suspect she could eventually succeed her husband.

The elderly politician's second wife - after Sarah Hayfron died in 1992 - remained unpopular with some Zimbabweans because of her lavish spending, including in London's plush stores, while many around her struggled against the country's crippling economy.

Ageing: Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, 93, who has been in power since 1980, is in increasingly fragile health and makes regular trips abroad for medical treatment
Ageing: Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, 93, who has been in power since 1980, is in increasingly fragile health and makes regular trips abroad for medical treatment

Ageing: Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, 93, who has been in power since 1980, is in increasingly fragile health and makes regular trips abroad for medical treatment

Tensions over the succession of Zimbabwe's ageing president, Robert Mugabe, have erupted into the open, pitching First Lady Grace Mugabe against Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa
Tensions over the succession of Zimbabwe's ageing president, Robert Mugabe, have erupted into the open, pitching First Lady Grace Mugabe against Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa

Tensions over the succession of Mugabe, recently erupted into the open, and had pitched First Lady Grace Mugabe against  now-sacked Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa

Mugabe's savage rule over Zimbabwe was dominated by murder, bloodshed, torture, persecution of political opponents, intimidation and vote-rigging on a grand scale.

He was the man who, in 1980, became the head of government of Zimbabwe, chosen to guide the country towards 'democracy' after 14 years of rebellion against the Crown headed by white Southern Rhodesian leader Ian Smith.

Much of Mugabe's dirty work was carried out by his bullying henchmen, 'veterans' of the guerrilla war against the Smith regime.

They attacked and often murdered white farmers, burning their homes, looting their possessions and confiscating their land, while his political opponents were often beaten, sexually abused and sometimes charged with treason and homosexual offences.

The economy of this mineral-rich country descended into chaos with thousands of people reduced to grinding poverty, many of them suffering from near-starvation and worse.

Mugabe's relationship with the Commonwealth, which he dubbed an 'Anglo-Saxon unholy alliance', was always stormy.

Zimbabwe was suspended from the Commonwealth in March 2002 after Mugabe was denounced for vote-rigging his own re-election.

During the Commonwealth heads of government conference a year later, he quit the organisation while member states were arguing about Zimbabwe's future.

In 1980, Mugabe (shown in 2005) became the head of government of Zimbabwe, chosen to guide the country towards 'democracy' after 14 years of rebellion against the Crown headed by white Southern Rhodesian leader Ian Smith
In 1980, Mugabe (shown in 2005) became the head of government of Zimbabwe, chosen to guide the country towards 'democracy' after 14 years of rebellion against the Crown headed by white Southern Rhodesian leader Ian Smith

In 1980, Mugabe (shown in 2005) became the head of government of Zimbabwe, chosen to guide the country towards 'democracy' after 14 years of rebellion against the Crown headed by white Southern Rhodesian leader Ian Smith

Princess Diana is pictured meeting President Robert Mugabe during a British Royal visit to Zimbabwe in 1993
Princess Diana is pictured meeting President Robert Mugabe during a British Royal visit to Zimbabwe in 1993

Princess Diana is pictured meeting President Robert Mugabe during a British Royal visit to Zimbabwe in 1993

Robert Gabriel Mugabe was born on February 24 1924 in Kutama. He was educated at Kutama Mission School and Fort Hare University and obtained degrees in correspondence courses with other educational establishments, including London University.

He worked as a teacher at various schools in Zimbabwe (or Southern Rhodesia as it was then) and in neighbouring countries.

Mugabe became publicity secretary of the National Democratic Party in 1960 and the following year was appointed acting secretary-general of the Zimbabwe African People's Union, which was eventually banned.

He suffered political detention in 1962 and the following year co-founded and became secretary-general of ZANU. Again he was sentenced, without trial, to political detention in 1964, but escaped in 1974 to Mozambique from where he led the armed struggle against the regime right up to 1979.

When, through Lord (Christopher) Soames, Margaret Thatcher brokered a deal in 1979 to end the Ian Smith rebellion, to everyone's surprise, the Marxist Mugabe - with what was described as 'a mix of conciliatory and intimidatory rhetoric' - became prime minister from 1980 to 1987. From 1988 he was president of Zimbabwe.

The new government, anxious to attract foreign investment, declared that white farmers were a welcome and integral part of the new Zimbabwe.

Then the land seizures took place. Plans to redistribute land peacefully were not working and ultimately the wartime 'veterans' were sent in to dispossess the white farmers of their land, often violently.

Much of Mugabe's dirty work was carried out by his bullying henchmen, 'veterans' of the guerrilla war against the S Robert Mugabe is pictured with his wife Sally s in 1987
Much of Mugabe's dirty work was carried out by his bullying henchmen, 'veterans' of the guerrilla war against the S Robert Mugabe is pictured with his wife Sally s in 1987

Mugabe's savage rule over Zimbabwe was dominated by murder, bloodshed, torture, persecution of political opponents, intimidation and vote-rigging on a grand scale. He is pictured with his wife Sally s in 1987

In many cases the fertile land went to wrack and ruin, leading to acute food shortages and a dramatic downturn in Zimbabwe's economy.

Meanwhile, as Mugabe grew into his 70s he became paranoid. He believed his opponents were trying to kill him.

Any voice of dissidence was met with violence and, in the case of an independent newspaper, shut down.

Political enemies were accused of homosexuality, and thrown into jail. Peter Tatchell, the human rights campaigner, was assaulted by Mugabe's bodyguards in 2001 when he tried to make a citizen's arrest on the Zimbabwean leader.

The sanctions imposed on the country at one stage barred Mugabe and his family and supporters from visiting Britain.

But despite an EU travel ban, he was allowed to attend the funeral of Pope John Paul II in Rome in 2005.

While there he shook hands with the Prince of Wales, who was seated one place away from the president. Clarence House said Charles was 'caught by surprise' when Mugabe leaned over to greet him.

Under Mugabe many humble Zimbabweans became billionaires, but ones on the brink of starvation and unable to pay for fuel because their money was worth so little thanks to stratospheric inflation.

In 2008 and 2009, the state's central bank printed so much of its currency - the Zimbabwe dollar - that the country experienced mind-boggling hyperinflation that reached 500 billion per cent, according to the International Monetary Fund.

The result was that items such as a loaf of bread would often cost millions of Zimbabwean dollars.

In 2008 Mugabe was stripped of his honorary knighthood, awarded in 1994, over his abuse of human rights and 'abject disregard' for democracy, the Foreign Office said at the time. The Queen approved the annulment
In 2008 Mugabe was stripped of his honorary knighthood, awarded in 1994, over his abuse of human rights and 'abject disregard' for democracy, the Foreign Office said at the time. The Queen approved the annulment

In 2008 Mugabe was stripped of his honorary knighthood, awarded in 1994, over his abuse of human rights and 'abject disregard' for democracy, the Foreign Office said at the time. The Queen approved the annulment

Inflation was only brought under control when the government abandoned the Zimbabwe currency and used the US dollar as its main medium of trade. Last year this was replaced with a new currency called bond notes.

As his dictatorial reign continued, many voiced their concerns about the power-obsessed leader. The then Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, cut up his dog collar on live television in a dramatic protest.

In 2008 Mugabe was stripped of his honorary knighthood, awarded in 1994, over his abuse of human rights and 'abject disregard' for democracy, the Foreign Office said at the time. The Queen approved the annulment.

But he was admired by some. In late 2015 he was awarded China's alternative to the Nobel Peace Prize, the Confucius Peace Prize, for what its committee called his inspired national leadership and service to pan-Africanism.

Mugabe had two sons and one daughter with Grace, while his first marriage produced one son who died.

Zimbabwe President's long rule at a glance:

1980: Mugabe named prime minister after independence elections

1982: Military action begins in Matabeleland against perceived uprising; government is accused of killing thousands of civilians

1987: Mugabe changes constitution and becomes president

1994: Mugabe receives honorary British knighthood

2000: Land seizures of white-owned farms begin; Western donors cut off aid

2005: United States calls Zimbabwe an 'outpost of tyranny'

2008: Mugabe and opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirayi agree to share power after contested election; Britain's Queen Elizabeth II annuls Mugabe's honorary knighthood

2011: Prime Minister Tsvangirayi declares power-sharing a failure amid violence

2013: Mugabe wins seventh term; opposition alleges election fraud

2016: (hash)ThisFlag protest movement emerges; independence war veterans turn on Mugabe, calling him 'dictatorial'

2017: Mugabe begins campaigning for 2018 elections

November 6: Mugabe fires deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa, appearing to position first lady Grace Mugabe for vice president post

November 15: Army announces it has Mugabe and his wife in custody as military appears to take control

He added: 'Officially no one has called it a coup yet, even the generals themselves are not calling it a coup, but that is what it is... [Mugabe] is no longer in charge; he is basically under house arrest.'

It is understood that options for the coming months include Mr Mugabe stepping down immediately, opening the way for Emmerson 'Crocodile' Mnangagwa to assume power at least until the next elections, or for a transitional authority to be set up to lead the country until a new leadership is elected. 

A group of soldiers seal off a main road to the parliament building within the military activities taking place in Harare, Zimbabwe yesterday
A group of soldiers seal off a main road to the parliament building within the military activities taking place in Harare, Zimbabwe yesterday

A group of soldiers seal off a main road to the parliament building within the military activities taking place in Harare, Zimbabwe yesterday

A diplomatic source told local media: 'The military still has residual respect for Mugabe. They don't want to stampede him out of power. They are looking for an honourable exit.'

The secretary of the youth wing of Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF party issued a dramatic apology on national television at midnight yesterday asking for forgiveness after his previous vociferous support for Mr Mugabe.

On Wednesday, the secretary had publicly called for Mr Mnangagwa to account for $15billion worth of diamonds which Mugabe said went missing last year.

Jacob Zuma, the chair of the Southern African Development Community, sent defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and state security minister Bongani Bongo to assist the tense negotiations, local media reported.

The Zimbabwe Defense Forces is expected to address the nation on television later today to offer an update on the current situation.

The US Embassy issued another statement this morning condemning the current situation and urging the army to abide by the constitution.

The African Union issued a statement yesterday urging the army to enact a peaceful transition. 

'Gucci Grace': How Zimbabwe's first lady has divided opinion

Zimbabwe's first lady has been a divisive figure since marrying Robert Mugabe in a lavish ceremony in 1996.

The influence of 52-year-old Grace Mugabe, dubbed 'Gucci Grace' for her love of shopping, has grown over the years to the point where she was being lined up as a potential successor to her husband.

But the former secretary, who was expecting to be appointed vice-president at a party congress next month, is widely loathed in her homeland.

Her recent escapades include seeing a journalist detained for saying she donated used underwear to supporters, and relying on diplomatic immunity to evade charges for assaulting a model in South Africa.

Zimbabwe's first lady Grace Mugabe has been a divisive figure since marrying Robert Mugabe in a lavish ceremony in 1996. The couple are pictured together in 2004
Zimbabwe's first lady Grace Mugabe has been a divisive figure since marrying Robert Mugabe in a lavish ceremony in 1996. The couple are pictured together in 2004

Zimbabwe's first lady Grace Mugabe has been a divisive figure since marrying Robert Mugabe in a lavish ceremony in 1996. The couple are pictured together in 2004

The 52-year-old, 41 years younger than her husband, has bought homes in Dubai and South Africa, spent £3million of state funds on her daughter's wedding, and recently bought a £300,000 Rolls-Royce.

Grace began an affair with Robert Mugabe while working as one of his typists and while his first wife, Sally, was terminally ill.

He is said to have wooed Grace Marufu over tea and scones. They went on to marry in an extravagant ceremony in 1996.

Her three sons, one from a previous marriage, angered Zimbabweans by flaunting their wealth.

The 52-year-old, 41 years younger than her husband, has bought homes in Dubai and South Africa, spent £3million of state funds on her daughter’s wedding, and recently bought a £300,000 Rolls-Royce
The 52-year-old, 41 years younger than her husband, has bought homes in Dubai and South Africa, spent £3million of state funds on her daughter’s wedding, and recently bought a £300,000 Rolls-Royce

The 52-year-old, 41 years younger than her husband, has bought homes in Dubai and South Africa, spent £3million of state funds on her daughter's wedding, and recently bought a £300,000 Rolls-Royce

One receipt posted online showed a single night's spending of $3,000 – three times the average annual income.

The youngest recently filmed himself pouring expensive champagne over a diamond-encrusted watch, bragging he owned the timepiece because 'daddy runs the whole country'. 

In her earlier years as Mugabe's wife, Grace had been known as a quiet figure known for her shopping and charity work. But she became increasingly involved in politics and Mugabe named her head of the ruling ZANU-PF party's women's wing in 2014.

She has always been a key supporter of her husband, but admitted in 2014: 'They say I want to be president. Why not? Am I not a Zimbabwean?'

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