Robert Mugabe and his family are set to remain in Zimbabwe under a deal with the ruling party that will see them retreat from politics in exchange for secure retirement, diplomatic and political sources in Harare said.
Mr Mugabe, 93, resigned on Tuesday following a military coup and an outpouring of public anger at economic mismanagement, corruption, and political violence during his nearly four decades of rule.
During celebrations in Harare following his resignation on Tuesday night, one man said he would like to see the former president ‘in leg irons’.
But in a possible indication of plans to rehabilitate the ousted president, posters were put up in Harare with the slogan ‘let Mugabe rest now’.
“President Mugabe is now a private citizen. Let’s let him enjoy a private life,” said Nick Mangwana, the head of the Zanu-PF branch in London. “For the 1st time in history, Zimbabwe has a former leader. We don’t know how to treat such,” he added on Twitter.
Mr Mugabe and his family may also be allowed to retain control of their assets, including the ‘Blue Roof’, the vast luxury Harare mansion where Mr Mugabe and Grace Mugabe, the former first lady, spent the past week under house arrest.
It is unclear whether there would be any investigation into how Mrs Mugabe amassed wealth including what is believed to be the largest land and real estate portfolio owned by anyone in Zimbabwean history.
Welshman Ncube, a barrister, constitutional lawyer, and long time opposition leader said: “Mugabe is a complex character. He would have told the military, ‘make me a martyr but I am going nowhere’. Given the vitriol and hatred towards Grace Mugabe, I suspect she will move in and out but spend more time out of Zimbabwe.
He added: “Remember however much we want a new Zimbabwe, Mnangagwa was, from the beginning, an enforcer for Mugabe, as were the generals. I would so like to be wrong, but this is not about a new Zimbabwe, it is still about Zanu-PF which has always been a party of coercion.”
Other allies of Mrs Mugabe from the G40, the faction of Zanu-PF that supported her, may not be so lucky.
Phelekezela Mphoko, Zimbabwe’s second vice president, who was in Japan at the time of the coup, is believed to have flown to Zambia.
Savior Kasukawere, a local government minister, and Jonathan Moyo, the tertiary education minister, are understood to have fled to South Africa.
Mr Moyo said on Twitter earlier this week that about 50 other senior Zanu-PF figures had also left the country.
Human rights groups have expressed concern about the whereabouts of Ignatius Chombo, the finance minister, who has not been seen since the night of the coup on November 14.
It emerged on Wednesday that Mr Mugabe himself turned down an offer of asylum from neighbouring Zambia at the height of the coup.
“I had talked to him that if the chips are down you can come here but he refused saying that his home was Zimbabwe and he will remain there,” Edgar Lungu, the president of Zambia, said.