Zimbabwe, With Mugabe in Custody, Ventures Into Uncharted Territory
HARARE, Zimbabwe — Feeling their way through uncharted territory after the military placed President Robert Mugabe under house arrest, Zimbabweans ventured into streets patrolled by armored vehicles on Thursday and awaited some kind of signal of what a new era might bring.
Many in this land of 16 million people have known no president other than the 93-year-old Mr. Mugabe, a onetime leader of the country’s anticolonial struggle who traded the liberator’s mantle for the iron fist of one of Africa’s most enduring autocrats.
Early Wednesday, the military announced that soldiers had confined Mr. Mugabe and his flamboyant and ambitious wife, Grace, to their home. While the military denied that a coup was underway, its actions signaled clearly that Mr. Mugabe no longer exercised supreme power.
The streets of the capital seemed calm on Thursday, but some residents said they detected a muted anticipation of possible change. There were no signs of arrests or violence, but soldiers in camouflage lounged on armored personnel carriers mounted with machine guns, and a lone fighter jet roared above, its mission unclear.
The military’s action has sent shock waves around the region. The Southern African Development Community, a regional bloc that includes Zimbabwe, was set to meet on Thursday in Gaborone, Botswana, to discuss the seeming slow-motion coup and the apparent impasse that has flowed from it.
As fevered speculation swept the capital, Reuters reported on Thursday that Mr. Mugabe was resisting pressure to join some kind of transitional arrangement that would embrace opposition leaders.