- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 14, 2003

JOHANNESBURG A senior member of embattled President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party said yesterday that Mr. Mugabe has made it known he would like to retire.
"I think he would like to go, but no one has the courage to actually confront him," the official said on the condition of anonymity.
"The problem is that he knows all the secrets, all the misdeeds, all the foreign bank accounts of his senior people, and if they push too hard, he could take them down with him," the official said.
Zimbabwe was agog with rumors yesterday about Mr. Mugabe's fate, with people asserting that he had left office, was going to retire or had gone into exile in Malaysia.
Both the ruling Zimbabwe Africa National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party and the opposition Movement for Democratic Change strenuously denied the reports of an early Mugabe departure yesterday.
Gen. Vitalis Zvinavashe, commander of Zimbabwe's armed forces, told the state radio in the capital, Harare, that the reports of a deal were "not worth commenting on."
The general, who had been named by some mediators as one of the two ruling-party figures promising to persuade Mr. Mugabe to step aside, dismissed the idea as "the work of enemies bent on destroying Zimbabwe."
A day earlier, the Associated Press reported that negotiations between the ruling and opposition parties were under way to ease Mr. Mugabe from office.
The outright denials yesterday did not stop people from wanting to know whether Mr. Mugabe's rule, and the misery he has inflicted on the nation, would soon be over, the London Daily Telegraph said in a dispatch from Harare. One businessman outside a Harare hotel found all three daily newspapers sold out shortly after 9 a.m.
The rumors were sparked by Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, who said Col. Lionel Dyke, a retired soldier with connections to Zimbabwe's military, had approached him saying he represented two of Mr. Mugabe's most senior acolytes. The AP reported that an exit plan would include amnesty for Mr. Mugabe, who has held power since 1980 but faces international isolation because of his seizure of land from white farmers and a disputed election victory in March.
A spokesman for Concerned Zimbabweans Abroad, a group of black Zimbabwean exiles living in South Africa, said last night that it would be difficult to guarantee Mr. Mugabe amnesty if he agreed to leave office.

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