The Zimbabwe coup has taken a bizarre turn after ousted leader Robert Mugabe, believed to be under house arrest, made a shock public appearance at a university graduation ceremony.
The unusual appearance is currently taking place at Zimbabwe Open University, where Robert Mugabe is Chancellor.
Mugabe has been ordered to resign or face impeachment but this dire ultimatum has not stopped him visiting the university to congratulate graduates today.
A red carpet has been laid out at the ceremony, with security present to protect the 93-year-old.
Wearing a blue and yellow academic gown and mortar board hat, Mugabe sat in large wooden chair at the front the hall. He was greeted by cheers from the crowd as he declared the ceremony open.
Reuters news agency’s southern Africa-based report Macharia James confirmed the appearance on Twitter.
He said: “Mugabe has just arrived to preside at a university graduation ceremony in Harare, his first public appearance since military takeover in Zimbabwe.
“Very strange coup this one.”
Another Twitter user said: “What kind of coup has the ‘deposed’ President attending a graduation ceremony 72 hours after said coup?”
Leaders of Mugabe’s party are making plans to force him from office if he resists pressure from the army to quit, a senior party source said on Friday.
The only leader Zimbabwe has known since independence in 1980 insists he is still in charge. But senior members of Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party made clear the party wanted him gone.
One source said: “If he becomes stubborn, we will arrange for him to be fired on Sunday. When that is done, it’s impeachment on Tuesday.”
Zimbabwe’s official newspaper, the Herald, ran photographs late last night that showed a grinning Mugabe shaking hands with military chief General Constantino Chiwenga, who seized power this week.
These images suggested Mugabe was managing to hold out against General Chiwenga’s coup, with some political sources saying he was trying to delay his departure until elections scheduled for next year.
However the source within ZANU-PF said this was not the case. Anxious to avoid a protracted stalemate, party leaders were drawing up plans to dismiss Mugabe at the weekend if he refused to quit.
The source said: “There is no going back. It’s like a match delayed by heavy rain, with the home side leading 90-0 in the 89th minute.”
Mugabe is also facing pressure from other African leaders, including the president of Botswana.
Ian Khama said: “I don’t think anyone should be President for that amount of time. We are Presidents, we are not monarchs. It’s just common sense.”
He said the military intervention resented “an opportunity to put Zimbabwe on a path to peace and prosperity”.