(By Anne Soy, et al) -Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe is to meet the army chief amid intense pressure for him to step down.
Mediation will be led by a Catholic priest, state TV said. Mr Mugabe has largely been confined to his house since the army took over on Wednesday.
The governing Zanu-PF party is also meeting to discuss whether to dismiss their founder and long-term leader.
The army intervened after Mr Mugabe, 93, fired his deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Mr Mnangagwa’s dismissal made Mr Mugabe’s wife Grace front runner to become next president. He is likely to be reinstated as vice-president when Zanu-PF convene.
Mr Mugabe has led Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980.
Tens of thousands of Zimbabweans took to the streets on Saturday to celebrate the army’s takeover and to urge Mr Mugabe to quit.
They tore pictures of Mr Mugabe and marched to his office and residence.
The military says it will advise the public on the outcome of talks “as soon as possible”.
Nine of 10 Zanu-PF party chapters say Mr Mugabe should step down and their decision is likely to be endorsed at Sunday’s meeting of the party’s top body, the central committee.
The BBC’s Andrew Harding in Harare says this is a watershed moment and there can be no return to power for Mr Mugabe.
Our correspondent says the situation appears to be getting out of Zanu-PF’s control and there could be a broad push to introduce a transitional government that includes the opposition.
It is understood that President Mugabe has so far insisted that he cannot step down and so legitimise a coup.
The military maintains this is not a coup and there is international pressure to use constitutional means to resolve the political crisis. Negotiators are poring through Zimbabwe’s laws to find a legal way out.
Saturday’s call for civilians to take to the streets looks choreographed to lend some legitimacy to the transition process being discussed.
President Mugabe’s support base has continued to crumble. Independence war veterans, who fought alongside him against colonial rule, have also called on their former leader to leave.
But the biggest blow yet to Mr Mugabe could be delivered by the central committee of his ruling Zanu-PF on Sunday. Their meeting could see Robert Mugabe dismissed as party leader.
It would be recalled that, soldiers had seized the headquarters of Zimbabwe’s national broadcaster ZBC on Wednesday.
An army official, Maj Gen Sibusiso Moyo, then read out a statement on national television, assuring the nation that President Mugabe and his family were safe.
The military was only targeting what he called “criminals” around the president, he said, denying that there had been a coup.
On Friday, Mr Mugabe made his first public appearance since being put under house arrest, speaking at a university.
Grace Mugabe was not present. It had been thought she had left the country but it emerged on Thursday that she was at home with Mr Mugabe.
Meanwhile, respect your elders appears to be working for Mugabe, Natasha Booty of BBC reports.
President Robert Mugabe’s first public appearance after the military takeover in Zimbabwe will have puzzled some.
Here he was at a university graduation ceremony, given the authority to hand students their degrees – almost as if nothing had happened.
It tells us two things:
Firstly, this was political theatre. The suggestion being that behind-the-scenes negotiations over his exit deal are cordial.
But it was also more than spectacle. It showed that President Mugabe’s opponents want to treat the elder statesman with dignity.
As in much of Africa, respecting your elders is ingrained in Zimbabwe’s culture.
And 93-year-old Robert Mugabe, a liberation fighter who became the country’s leader at independence in 1980, is seen as the father of the nation.
It explains the respectful tone used by opposition leader and bitter rival Morgan Tsvangirai when calling for President Mugabe’s resignation.
He said Mr Mugabe should step down “in line with the national expectation and sentiment, taking full regard of his legacy and contribution to Zimbabwe pre and post-independence”.
Kim Chakanetsa, BBC Focus on Africa, writes that there is a great weight placed on respecting your elders in Shona culture, which is Zimbabwe’s biggest ethnic group. It is one of the fundamental values.
At a young age you are taught to greet, speak and interact with elders in a particular manner.
For example, when arriving at someone’s house, an exchange of greetings will be led by the younger party, who must enquire about the health of every adult present.
For girls or women, this could involve kneeling and clapping, then asking each individual in turn about their health. Boys and men will do much the same, but crouching.
Failing to do so is frowned upon, and taken as a sign of a poor upbringing or lack of respect.
Within the household, grandparents wield considerable influence.
This reverence for elders extends beyond your family. Any older woman or man is to be treated in the same way.
President Mugabe still commands the respect of the army leadership because of his liberation war credentials in the fight against white-minority rule in the 1960s and 1970s.
His government’s early achievements in improving access to healthcare and raising literacy rates were feted in the 1980s.
But in recent years the collapse of Zimbabwe’s economy, the violent crackdowns on political opposition and raids on white-owned farms have severely damaged Mr Mugabe’s reputation.
This is especially true in the international community, where some see him as nothing more than a despot.
But while Zimbabweans have been the ones to suffer first-hand, many still feel a lingering respect for the man who delivered them independence.
On what is next for Zimbabwe, Lebo Diseko, BBC News reports that, after 37 years in charge of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe is currently under house arrest after a military takeover.
South African envoys and a Zimbabwean church leader are trying to mediate between him and the army. The question now is what happens next, for Mr Mugabe and for Zimbabwe?
Here are seven possible scenarios:
1: Mugabe resigns
Just hours after the Maj Gen Sibusiso Moyo announced the military takeover on state TV, there were rumours that 93-year-old Robert Mugabe would himself shortly be addressing the nation with his own statement, saying he was stepping aside.
That has not happened, but it is not out of the question.
This would clear the way for former Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa to step in as leader of the ruling Zanu-PF. It is widely believed that it was his sacking last week which was the catalyst for the military’s action.
2: Mugabe stays on
The military has so far continued to refer to Robert Mugabe as “his excellency, the president”.
Many in the army, and the ruling Zanu-PF party, are long-time Mugabe loyalists.
Their issue was not with him but rather with what they saw as a power grab by his wife Grace, to succeed him.
Zanu-PF’s UK representative Nick Mangwana has suggested to the BBC that Mr Mugabe could remain nominally in power until the party congress due in December, when Mr Mnangagwa could be formally installed as party and national leader.
But Reuters news agency is reporting that Mr Mugabe is insisting that he serve out the remainder of his presidential term. That scenario would see him stay on until elections next year.
3. Mugabe forced into exile
What if an agreement within Zanu-PF can’t be reached? Well, Mr Mugabe could be forced into exile.
Until recently, neighbouring South Africa would have been a natural place for him to go.
Mr Mugabe enjoys a high level of respect there, in large part because of his support for the fight against apartheid rule.
Indeed, the opposition EFF party has already called on the government to “prepare to welcome President Mugabe for political asylum”.
Finally, we call on the South African government to prepare to welcome President Mugabe for political asylum. He must be allowed to come to South Africa so that a peaceful transition can indeed take place.
The Mugabes are reported to have a number of properties in South Africa.
The sticking point would be what happens to his wife Grace.
She was granted diplomatic immunity after allegedly assaulting a model in a hotel room in Johannesburg in August.
But model Gabriella Engels is trying to get the diplomatic immunity order set aside. If successful, it would mean Grace Mugabe could face prosecution should she go to South Africa.
So if not South Africa, then where?
Other possible options are Singapore and Malaysia, where the Mugabes also have properties.
4. Government of national unity and elections
The leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change-Tsvangirai (MDC-T) party is back in Harare after receiving treatment for cancer in South Africa, fuelling speculation about negotiations for a unity government.
This is the scenario that many in the West, and of course the opposition, would prefer.
Another opposition leader, Tendai Biti, has said that he would join a national unity government if Mr Tsvangirai was also in it.
5: A new Mugabe?
But the military takeover was not a change of regime. It was an internal dispute within Zanu-PF, and that party is still very much in power.
The military is to a large extent the armed wing of Zanu-PF.
And the man they support as leader – Emmerson Mnangagwa – helped Robert Mugabe carry out some of his most controversial policies.
He is also, some say, more ruthless.
So it is far from clear that the ousting of Mr Mugabe would improve the lives of ordinary Zimbabweans.
6: Mugabe stages counter coup.
The Presidential Guard are the part of the military most loyal to Mugabe.
Their compound was surrounded when the military initially took over.
Unusually, the military takeover in Zimbabwe has been driven by generals.
Some 90 senior army figures stood with Gen Constantino Chiwenga last week, when he warned of the consequences of “purges” after Mr Mnangagwa was sacked.
While nothing is impossible, this is probably the least likely outcome of all.
7. What about Grace?
There had been speculation that the woman who is arguably at the centre of this unfolding drama had fled to Namibia.
But the authorities in Namibia have denied this.
There had also been rumours that she was on her way to Dubai or Malaysia, although that has not been confirmed.
It is looking increasing likely that Mrs Mugabe is with her husband at their home in Harare, where they are effectively under house arrest.
And there are reports that securing her future is a key point in the president’s negotiations with the army.
One idea some commentators have put forward is that South Africa find a way to make sure her immunity from prosecution stands.
That might help avert a protracted and potentially volatile situation, which could destabilise Zimbabwe’s neighbours.
The whereabouts of the couple’s children are also unclear. They were thought to be in Johannesburg earlier this week. (BBC)