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African press review 17 November 2017


Once again the fate of Zimbabwe's long-serving president, Robert Mugabe, dominates the continental front pages. Some reports suggest he's on the way out, others that he's fighting a last-ditch battle to remain in power. Journalists are already speculating about the post-Mugabe era.

Will he go or will he stay? Is Zimbabwe's long-serving president Robert Mugabe going to accept early retirement after the military's coup that was not a coup?

The Harare-based NewsDay this morning reports that Mugabe yesterday agreed in principle to step down after 37 years in power, saying details of his exit conditions are still being negotiated.

Mugabe is reportedly demanding unconditional immunity for himself and his family. The military want First Lady Grace tried for usurping executive authority from her ageing husband.

NewsDay says the president, who has been under house arrest since the army took control of the country on Wednesday, will go into exile in South Africa today.

There is no mention of any of this on the front page of the state-run Herald newspaper.

Priestly intervention

According to South African financial paper BusinessDay, where the main headline this morning reads "Mugabe refuses to step down", the embattled president is insisting he remains Zimbabwe’s only legitimate ruler. Mugabe is described as resisting mediation by a Catholic priest, an intervention intended to allow the 93-year-old former guerrilla a graceful exit after the military coup.

The priest, Fidelis Mukonori, is acting as a middleman between Mugabe and the generals who seized power on Wednesday in a targeted operation against so-called but unnamed “criminals” in the presidential entourage.

The talks appear to be aimed at a smooth and bloodless transition after the departure of Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe since independence in 1980.

The details of the discussions were not released and sources emerged with conflicting information, says BusinessDay.

One source said Mugabe remained defiant, resisting a push from generals for him to step down, while another said the president had agreed to leave but needed security assurances for himself and his family.

The boys are back in town

Zimbabwean intelligence reports seen by the Reuters news agency suggest that former security chief Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was ousted as vice-president earlier this month, has been mapping out a post-Mugabe vision with the military and opposition for more than a year.

Fuelling speculation that that plan might be rolling into action, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who has been receiving cancer treatment in Britain and South Africa, returned to Harare late on Wednesday.

Former finance minister Tendai Biti said yesterday he would be happy to work in any national unity government that emerged, but only if Tsvangirai was also on board.

The plot thickens.

It wasn't me, sir

In Zimbabwe itself, the debate continues about who wrote the text read out by Zanu-PF youth leader Kudzanai Chipanga in the wake of the army takeover.

The Herald's graphic main headline reads "Chipanga under bus, Dangarembizi sings".

Yesterday Chipanga denied being the author of the condemnation of the armed forces, naming Rodney Dangarembizi, an alleged member of Zanu-PF's G40 faction who organised First Lady Grace Mugabe’s 50th birthday dinner in 2015, as the source of the criticism.

Not to be outdone in the hot-potato stakes, Dangarembizi then fingered Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Jonathan Moyo as the author of the statement.

What happens next?

Regional paper the East African seems to think Mugabe's goose is well and truly cooked.

They devote their main story to a rundown of the likely players in Zimbabwe's post-coup unity government.

And in a separate story, the regional daily notes that several opposition figures in South Africa have spoken out against allowing the Zimbabwean president to seek asylum in the country.

Cope, the opposition Congress of the People, called on all South Africans to resist any attempts to make the country the home of last resort of leaders who have violated the human rights of their own citizens.