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Harare, Zimbabwe (CNN) Zimbabwe's embattled President Robert Mugabe has been shown in talks with the commander of the country's defense forces, a day after the military seized control of the capital.
Photographs published by the pro-Mugabe Herald newspaper are the first images seen of the veteran leader since he was placed under house arrest Wednesday morning and the military staged an apparent coup. The Herald's editor, Caesar Zvayi, also tweeted the images.
Mugabe in talks about his future, in this image tweeted by the editor of Zimbabwe's Herald.
Among the group of people in the photos is a priest, reported earlier to be brokering the talks for a transitional government, and two South African envoys.
Mugabe, 93, appears calm in the photos as he talks with army leader Commander General Constantino Chiwenga. The commander warned the President on Monday that the military could intervene after Mugabe dismissed Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, triggering the political tumult.
Mugabe -- who has ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years -- has all but lost his grip on power as the country's military leaders and senior officials in his own party turn against him. But he is yet to make a public statement, an indication that military chiefs are having difficulty persuading him to step down.
Opposition leader returns: The main opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, returned to Harare after the apparent coup and Thursday called on Mugabe to resign.
Grace Mugabe: It was unclear whether the President's 52-year-old wife was at home with him in Harare. Robert Mugabe's efforts to position his wife as his successor infuriated the old guard in his party.
Allies turn: The powerful War Veterans' Association, longtime Mugabe allies, is planning to hold a rally supporting Mnangagwa.
Political upheaval grips Zimbabwe
Members of Zimbabwe's Parliament celebrate after the resignation of longtime President Robert Mugabe was announced on Tuesday, November 21. Mugabe, 93, had led the country for nearly four decades. His resignation
comes six days after military leaders seized control of the nation and placed him under house arrest.
Protesters call for Mugabe's impeachment near the Parliament building in Harare on November 21.
Demonstrators protest outside the Parliament building on November 21.
Jacob Mudenda, the speaker of Zimbabwe's Parliament, presides over a session where a motion was moved to impeach Mugabe.
A man accused of supporting Mugabe is attacked outside Parliament on November 21.
People gather to pray for the country in a park near Parliament on November 21.
Lawmakers meet inside Parliament on November 21.
Gen. Constantino Chiwenga speaks during a news conference in Harare on Monday, November 20. Military leaders had been in talks with Mugabe over his exit, and Chiwenga said that progress had been made.
Students from the University of Zimbabwe participate in a demonstration in Harare on November 20.
Newspapers are held in place with rocks at a newsstand in Harare on November 20.
At a bar in Harare, people watch Mugabe give a televised address to the nation on Sunday, November 19. Mugabe ended the address
without giving his resignation.
Mugabe meets with generals in Harare on November 19.
Members of the ruling party ZANU-PF react after the decision to oust Mugabe as party leader on November 19.
A portrait of Mugabe hangs in the hall of the ZANU-PF headquarters, where delegates met for a special committee on November 19. Mugabe co-founded the party and had been its leader for decades.
A woman and her daughter look out from their balcony as a crowd of protesters gather on the road leading to the State House in Harare on Saturday, November 18.
People hold a portrait of Zimbabwe's former vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, during a demonstration demanding Mugabe's resignation on November 18. ZANU-PF announced Mnangagwa as its new party leader. He was fired by Mugabe on November 6.
A soldier greets a citizen during a demonstration on November 18.
People in Harare react as they see a military helicopter fly overhead during protests against Mugabe on November 18.
Mugabe, center, arrives to preside over a student graduation ceremony at Zimbabwe Open University on Friday, November 17. It was his first public appearance since the military takeover.
Mugabe, right, is seen in talks about his future in this image tweeted by Caesar Zvayi,
the editor of The Herald newspaper, on Thursday, November 16.
An armored vehicle is on patrol in Harare on November 16.
Business continues as usual in Harare as roadside vendors sell vegetables on November 16.
Members of the military check a gun as they stand atop an armored vehicle parked in Harare's central district on November 16.
An overview of Harare on November 16.
A banner of Mugabe remains outside the ZANU-PF headquarters in Harare on November 16.
Soldiers seal off a main road to the parliament building in Harare on November 15.
Soldiers patrol a street in Harare on November 15.
Soldiers inspect a vehicle on a road leading to Mugabe's office in Harare on November 15.
Residents in Zimbabwe's capital line up to withdraw money from a bank on November 15.
Two pedestrians pass behind an armored personnel carrier stationed at an intersection in Harare on November 15.
A man in Harare reads a special edition of The Herald newspaper on November 15.
An armored military vehicle is seen outside the building of the state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corp. on November 15.
Soldiers monitor traffic in Harare on November 15 as the military set up checkpoints at key locations in the city.
In a screen grab of a TV broadcast on the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corp., Maj. Gen. Sibusiso Moyo reads a statement saying the military was conducting an operation to target "criminals" close to the President who were causing "social and economic suffering." He denied a coup was underway.
A source at the opposition party Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) earlier told CNN that transition talks were underway, claiming that the embattled President's exit was a "done deal."
"There is a transition of power underway and it has tacit agreement from regional powers," the opposition party source told CNN.
Key to any transitional administration will be former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was widely tipped to become the country's next leader. Mnangagwa remains one of the most powerful figures in the country and derives much of his support from the military.
His dismissal fueled speculation that Mugabe was clearing the way for his wife, Grace, to take over the presidency in the event of his retirement or death. Mnangagwa has not been sighted in Harare since he was fired and his whereabouts are still unknown.
A crucial issue in the talks will be whether Mugabe will be allowed to serve out the rest of his term ahead of next year's vote.
The MDC-T will also be looking to seize the opportunity the political upheaval has presented. The party's leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, returned to Harare after Wednesday's events. He had spent time abroad for cancer treatment.
Tsvangirai called on Mugabe to resign on Thursday, but was cautious in public about his future role.
Despite the opportunity the turmoil presents for him, Tsvangirai called the military takeover "unconstitutional" and questioned whether a transitional government was even the right approach.
"You can't force the change (of) government by any means other than by the ballot box," he told CNN after a press conference.
Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai at a rally in Harare on August 5, 2017.
Tsvangirai served as prime minister under a power-sharing deal with Mugabe after a disputed election in 2008, but Mugabe regained full control in 2013 amid further allegations of election fraud. Tsvangirai has called on Mugabe to step down many times, but this time his calls are joined by many other voices, including within Mugabe's own party.
Mugabe's allies turn
In a sign that power in the country is quickly shifting, several of Mugabe's longtime allies are turning on him.
The War Veterans' Association, funded by Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, is planning on holding a large rally in Harare on Saturday to show its support for Mnangagwa. It is an indication that the group is confident that its favored candidate has the upper hand.
The head of ZANU-PF's youth wing, which had shown strong support for Grace Mugabe, issued an apology on state TV overnight for criticizing the head of the armed forces.
"I have since reflected and I personally admitted that I erred together with my entire executive to denigrate your highest office," Kudzanai Chipan said in his apology, insisting he had not been coerced into making the statement.
Mnangagwa himself was once a loyal ally of Mugabe. He served as the leader's right-hand man for his entire rule, and their relationship goes back to the country's fight for independence. While he has his supporters, there are many Zimbabweans who fear him, having facilitated Mugabe's brutal rule for so long.
World leaders also appear to be tacitly supporting the attempt at to dethrone Mugabe, with no real voices coming out to support the leader.
In his remarks on the military's apparent coup, South Africa's Zuma did not condemn the takeover Wednesday, a stance widely seen as tacit support for a change of government in the country.
A group of 115 civil society organizations called on Mugabe to peacefully step down, and for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) -- which Zuma chairs -- to step in a arbiter of the transition talks.
Political life and career of Robert Mugabe
Robert Mugabe is sworn in for his seventh term as Zimbabwe's President in August 2013. He resigned
Tuesday, November 21, after nearly four decades in power.
Mugabe gestures towards the media in Geneva, Switzerland, at a 1974 conference convened to address the civil war in Rhodesia. After being imprisoned for 10 years in Rhodesia, Mugabe attended the peace talks as a leader of the guerrilla movement ZANU-PF (Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front). Rhodesia was the state that eventually became Zimbabwe.
Mugabe speaks to the press in Geneva in 1976. The following year he was elected president of ZANU-PF and commander-in-chief of the Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army.
Mugabe holds a news conference in Salisbury -- now Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe -- in March 1980. He had just been elected as the first prime minister of Zimbabwe, helping to form the new country after British rule of Rhodesia came to an end.
From left, NBC News moderator Bill Monroe, Newsday's Les Payne, the Chicago Sun Times' Robert Novak and NBC News' Garrick Utley speak with Mugabe during an episode of "Meet the Press" in 1980.
Mugabe speaks with his first wife, Sally, during an event in Salisbury in 1980. The pair were married until Sally died in 1992. They had one son, who died at age 4.
Mugabe holds hands with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi at the Organization of African Unity summit in August 1982.
Mugabe meets with French President Francois Mitterand in Paris in 1982.
Mugabe is seen with Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in New Delhi in 1983.
Mugabe walks hand in hand with American civil rights activist Jesse Jackson during the Summit of Non-Aligned Countries, which Harare hosted in 1986.
Mugabe delivers a speech in Harare in August 1986.
Mugabe poses for a photo with other leaders at a Commonwealth of Nations meeting in London in 1986. Pictured from left, in the back row, are Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, Commonwealth Secretary-General S.S. Ramphal, Australian Prime Minister Robert Hawke and Mugabe. In the front row, from left, are British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Bahamian Prime Minister Lynden Pindling and Zambian President Kenneth Kaunda.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II toasts Mugabe during a banquet in the Queen's honor in Harare in October 1991. The Queen had last visited the territory that became Zimbabwe in 1947.
US President Bill Clinton gestures while talking to Mugabe after a White House meeting in Washington in May 1995.
Mugabe marries Grace Marufu on August 17, 1996. Earlier in the year, he was re-elected President after all of his opponents dropped out of the race.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair talks with Mugabe in October 1997, before the start of the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting.
Mugabe speaks during the Southern Africa trade and investment summit in Windhoek, Namibia, in October 2000. Earlier in the year, he implemented a controversial land-reform program that saw the seizure of land from some 4,000 white farmers.
Mugabe and Cuban President Fidel Castro are seen in Havana, Cuba, in September 2005.
South African President Jacob Zuma walks with Mugabe at Harare International Airport in March 2010.
Mugabe addresses the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2010.
Mugabe cuts his birthday cake with his wife, Grace, and son Bellarmine Chatunga during celebrations in Harare in February 2011. Mugabe was turning 87.
Robert and Grace Mugabe arrive at the Vatican for the beatification ceremony of John Paul II in May 2011.
Mugabe delivers a speech at his party's annual national conference in December 2012. He vowed to overhaul business laws to require 100% black ownership of firms.
The Mugabes attend Pope Francis' inauguration Mass in March 2013.
Mugabe and Chinese President Xi Jinping participate in a signing ceremony in Beijing in 2014.
Mugabe speaks at the ZANU-PF party's annual conference in December 2016. The party endorsed Mugabe as its candidate for the 2018 election.
Mugabe reviews the guard of honor during Zimbabwe's 37th Independence Day celebrations in April 2017.
Mugabe arrives to preside over a student graduation ceremony at Zimbabwe Open University in November 2017. It was his first public appearance since the military seized control of the nation
and placed him under house arrest.
Mugabe meets with generals in Harare on November 19. Military leaders had been in talks with Mugabe over his exit.
The developments mark a sudden shift for ordinary Zimbabweans too, even though Mugabe's downfall appears to have been years in the making.
"There are military tanks on the streets, which has never happened before," said one Harare resident. "The military is obviously now in charge despite their insistence that it's not a coup. It is."
Soldiers are still deployed at the parliament, presidential palace and the state broadcaster. But the capital has been calm over the past two days, and activities are resuming as usual, said a university student.
"The soldiers outside the president's office are actually talking to folks passing by," the student said.
Mugabe's brutal rule
Mugabe, the only leader most Zimbabweans have ever known, ruled the landlocked country for 37 years with an iron fist.
He rose to power as a freedom fighter and was seen as Zimbabwe's Nelson Mandela. But he quickly waged a campaign of oppression to consolidate his position, extinguishing the political opposition through violent crackdowns.
Among them was a string of massacres in opposition strongholds, in which thousands were killed. Some of those campaigns of terror were believed to be orchestrated by Mnangagwa when he was the country's spy chief in the 1980s.
Mugabe's hardline policies also pushed the country into poverty. Its flourishing economy began to disintegrate after a program of land seizures from white farmers, and agricultural output plummeted and inflation soared.
Like his wife -- who is dubbed "Gucci Grace" for her extravagant shopping sprees -- Mugabe is criticized for his lavish lifestyle. Last year, he held an birthday party that reportedly cost $800,000 in a region hit by food shortages and drought.
CNN's David McKenzie and Brent Swails reported from Harare. Angela Dewan wrote from London and Jamie Tarabay wrote from Hong Kong. CNN's Paul Murphy and Emily Smith contributed to this report.