Zimbabwean activists have warned other countries not to intervene amid an apparent split between two of Zimbabwe’s neighbours over whether to support or oppose the defacto coup against Robert Mugabe.
Ian Khama, the president of Botswana and a long time foe of Mr Mugabe, became the first world leader to effectively endorse the military’s intervention on Friday when he said the strongman had no regional support for continuing his 37 year rule.
“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,” Mr Khama told Reuters.
Mr Mugabe’s departure would be an “an opportunity to put Zimbabwe on a path to peace and prosperity,” he added.
His remarks appeared to contradict earlier comments by Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa who also chairs the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a 16-nation regional bloc.
Timeline Robert Mugabe as leader of Zimbabwe
“We note with great concern the unfolding political development in Zimbabwe and we hope that they will not lead to unconstitutional change of government,” Mr Zuma said following a summit in Botswana.
South Africa sent two envoys to mediate talks between Mugabe and the Zimbabwean Defense Forces on Thursday, sparking speculation on Zimbabwean social media that they might have stiffened the president’s resolve not to give into demands he step down.
More than 30,000 people signed a petition urging the SADC not to attempt to intervene as Zimbabwe grapples with Robert Mugabe’s fall from power.
“There is no need at this time for you to do anything but business as usual,” the Change.org petition reads.
“We speak for many people when we say we hoped and prayed for this day for long and now that it’s here, DON’T mess it up for us.” China, a major investor in Zimbabwe, on Friday called for the crisis to be resolved peacefully.
“China calls on all sides in Zimbabwe to keep their eyes on the country’s long-term and fundamental interests and to uphold dialogue and consultations to bridge differences,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told Reuters.
Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, urged Zimbabwe to hold quick elections but did not explicitly condemn the military’s intervention.
“We all should work together for a quick return to a civilian rule in that…