Mugabe Ignores Resignation Deadline, Putting Pressure on Parliament
But to complete this picture of legality, they need Mr. Mugabe’s cooperation — a fact that the president clearly understands and is exploiting as he reportedly negotiates his future and that of his family.
The quandary also helps explain the continued absence of Mr. Mnangagwa, who had been engaged in a long-running feud with the president’s wife. Mr. Mugabe had taken his wife’s side by firing Mr. Mnangagwa and then trying to have the nation’s top military commander, Gen. Constantino Chiwenga, arrested. That led to the military intervention.
Military leaders have taken great pains to remove any trace of Mr. Mnangagwa’s involvement in the intervention itself, clearly believing that it would damage him politically as he moves to succeed Mr. Mugabe.
Mr. Mnangagwa has not been seen in public since he was fired. He has yet to return to Zimbabwe even though ZANU-PF named him as its new leader on Sunday, after expelling Mr. Mugabe from its ranks.
His absence has become conspicuous, leaving some allies struggling to explain.
Tshinga Dube, a former war veterans minister and an ally of Mr. Mnangagwa, said the former vice president was still in South Africa on Monday. Asked why he had not returned after being named the new head of ZANU-PF, Mr. Dube said, “Well, it’s only yesterday.”
Questioned as to whether Mr. Mnangagwa would return soon, Mr. Dube said, “Yes, yes, very soon. Maybe even this week, maybe.”
Simon Khaya Moyo, ZANU-PF’s spokesman, said he had “no idea” when Mr. Mnangagwa would return. Asked why the party’s new leader had not returned already, Mr. Moyo replied testily, “I don’t know.”
On Nov. 6, some hours after he was fired, Mr. Mnangagwa decided to flee Zimbabwe, fearing arrest or worse, according to allies. In an escape worthy of his background as a liberation war veteran and his nickname, the Crocodile, he apparently outmaneuvered Mr. Mugabe’s security forces, though he came very close to being caught.
Mr. Mnangagwa had private planes belonging to friends ready to take off at the airport, creating the impression that he would fly out of Zimbabwe, said Mr. Mutsvangwa, the head of the war veterans association. Instead, Mr. Mnangagwa drove in a single vehicle toward neighboring Mozambique, where he has strong military ties, accompanied by a son and a young assistant.
Wearing a cap, Mr. Mnangagwa, 75, had his passport stamped at the border, but was then recognized by a police officer, Mr. Mutsvangwa said. Mr. Mnangagwa’s son, a soldier, disarmed the officer, and their vehicle made a U-turn, speeding back into Zimbabwe. After a while, they stopped by the roadside. The young assistant drove the car back to Harare as Mr. Mnangagwa and his son left Zimbabwe on foot.
“It’s a land border, there’s no river, so they just used a bush path,” Mr. Mutsvangwa said. “So he walked into Mozambique, and, of course, Mozambican friends were waiting for him on the other side.”
“It wasn’t easy, he’s not young anymore,” Mr. Mutsvangwa said.
Though the impending end of the Mugabe era pleased most Zimbabweans, many remained cautious about Mr. Mnangagwa, who was long known for being the president’s ruthless enforcer.
“The way Mugabe has been running this country is the same way Mnangagwa is going to do it,” said Catherine Mukwapati, 34, who was walking in central Harare with her 3-year-old daughter.
Claris Madhuku, 38, who was sitting on a bench in Africa Unity Square, said he was skeptical of Mr. Mnangagwa’s close ties to the military. The former vice president, he added, had emerged victorious over a rival faction because his own “just fortunately won the backing of the army.”
Still, Mr. Madhuku was hopeful that the economy would improve under Mr. Mnangagwa, who has a reputation for pragmatism and for being open to outside investors.
“He will likely be a reformist in as far as the economy is concerned,” Mr. Madhuku said. “I just hope he will not continue with Mugabe’s destructive policies.”.