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Although the mood of the crowd on Saturday was celebratory at the prospect of deliverance from Mr Mugabe’s rule rather than confrontational, there have been increasing warnings that frustration at Mr Mugabe’s failure to leave may trigger a violent reaction.

The head of the organization of veterans who fought against white rule had warned that he “would bring back the crowd to do the business” if Mr Mugabe did not step down.

On Friday evening, it has emerged, the President sought to suspend parliament.

But National Assembly speaker Jacob Mudenda refused the demand and senior Zanu-PF figures began talks with opposition parties to agree on a course of action.

He had previously refused to write the statement in conjunction with senior military officers and party officials and has been described by aides as being in a highly emotional state, with mood swings between defiance and depression.

The indications during days of negotiations had been that Mr and Mrs Mugabe would be allowed to go into exile after he stood down as President.

Former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who many believe is due to be installed as the new leader, had been sacked recently by Mr Mugabe at the instigation, it is claimed, of Grace Mugabe was appointed Zanu-PF leader and is set to head a interim administration which will include members of opposition parties including Morgan Tsvangirai who had previously been in a power sharing government with Mr Mugabe.

Many people had expected Mr Mugabe to resign as a source close to him reportedly told the Reuters news agency that he was writing his resignation speech.

The address came after talks with the head of the armed forces, General Constantino Chiwenga who had placed him and his wife Grace under house arrest.

Grace Mugabe, a hugely divisive figure in the country accused of corruption and abuse was fired as the head of the party’s women’s section.


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