Zimbabwe's parliamentarians are moving ahead with a plan to impeach President Robert Mugabe, while military commanders have disclosed that they are negotiating "guarantees" and a "roadmap" for the future of the elderly ruler.
The man who has been chosen to replace Mr. Mugabe as the president of Zimbabwe will return from exile soon to begin direct talks with him, the Zimbabwean military says.
Mr. Mugabe has been clinging to power since a military coup last Wednesday. The army is keen for him to resign voluntarily to preserve the façade that he is being replaced legitimately in a constitutional process. To achieve this, the military commanders may be willing to give him more time to negotiate his exit. It is believed that he is seeking guarantees that his family will not be arrested and that his property will not be seized.
In a televised speech to the country on Monday night, the military chiefs hinted at a potential deal under which Mr. Mugabe could leave office within days or weeks. His departure could be finalized at a national conference of Zimbabwe's ruling party scheduled for mid-December, analysts say.
The party, ZANU-PF, announced on Sunday that it plans to replace Mr. Mugabe with Emmerson Mnangagwa, the former spy chief and vice-president known as "The Crocodile," who fled Zimbabwe to avoid arrest after Mr. Mugabe sacked him in early November.
Mr. Mnangagwa has not been seen in public since his dismissal, but he is "expected in the country shortly," General Constantino Chiwenga, commander of the Zimbabwean armed forces, said in an address to the country on Monday night.
He defended the military takeover, saying it would set Zimbabwe on "the desired development trajectory." He said the military operation had been codenamed "Operation Restore Legacy."
For the first time in years, the military has allowed Zimbabweans to demonstrate freely in the streets. They responded with huge rallies in Harare on the weekend, demanding Mr. Mugabe's resignation. Many analysts, however, are concerned that the coup will entrench the ruling party's authoritarian grip on the country.
Mr. Mnangagwa is the leader of a powerful faction that has now seized control of the ruling party. His faction had been feuding bitterly with a rival faction led by Mr. Mugabe's wife, Grace. But the leaders of the Grace Mugabe faction were expelled from the party at Sunday's meeting of its central committee.
Mr. Mugabe had been widely expected to announce his resignation in a televised address to the country on Sunday night, but instead he gave a confused and rambling speech that avoided the subject.
He did, however, praise the army's behaviour and express his agreement with the army's concerns. This could help to legitimize the military coup and pave the way for his eventual departure.
The attempt to impeach Mr. Mugabe will begin on Tuesday afternoon in Parliament, and it is likely to take several days or longer.
It requires a two-thirds vote from the 350 members of the combined upper and lower houses of Parliament.
After a caucus meeting on Monday, leaders of ZANU-PF said they are confident that they have sufficient support in Parliament to impeach Mr. Mugabe. It is unclear whether the opposition parties will support the impeachment, but it is also unclear whether their support would be needed.