Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe emerged for the first time Friday from military-imposed house arrest, presiding at a university graduation ceremony in a fragile show of normalcy even as former loyalists across the country demanded that he resign after nearly four decades in power.
In an extraordinary evening newscast, state broadcaster ZBC - for decades, a mouthpiece for the Mugabe government - reported on the surging campaign for his ouster and showed video of ruling party members saying he should resign.
Clad in a blue academic gown, the 93-year-old leader earlier joined academics on a red carpet and sat in a high-backed chair in front of several thousand students and guests, a routine he has conducted for many years as the official chancellor of Zimbabwe's universities.
This time, however, the spectacle was jarring because the authority of the world's oldest head of state, once seen as impregnable, is evaporating daily.
That Mugabe was permitted to go to the Zimbabwe Open University event possibly reflected a degree of respect by the military for the president, a former rebel leader who took power after independence from white minority rule in 1980. The armed forces are in a delicate position, sending tanks and troops into Harare's streets this week to effectively end the Mugabe era, while refraining from more heavy-handed measures that would heighten accusations that they staged a coup and violated the constitution.
Meanwhile, the ruling ZANU-PF party signaled impatience with Mugabe amid negotiations on his exit. Party branches passed no-confidence votes in all 10 Zimbabwean provinces, and the state-run Zimbabwe Herald newspaper said all called for the resignation of Mugabe and his wife. They seek a special meeting within two days of the party's Central Committee.