Feb 22, 2018 Last Updated 3:20 PM, Feb 22, 2018
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An aide to Zimbabwe's former president, Robert Mugabe, has said he feared civilians could "drag out and lynch" the leader in a "Libyan scenario".

During Mr Mugabe's last week in office, he was under house arrest as the military staged a takeover which would eventually oust him. 

 "I started visualising an image of Muammar Gaddafi," Mr Mugabe's former spokesman George Charamba said.

He was speaking to Zimbabwe’s privately owned Daily News site. 

 Recalling the last days of Mr Mugabe's 37-year rule, Mr Charamba said the 93-year-old wanted "to go on his own terms" and had to be warned of the dangers following the military's intervention and the outbreak of protests.

While Mr Mugabe was held at his lavish Blue Roof mansion, negotiations over his future were being thrashed out between military generals, Catholic priests, political aides and South African envoys.

Mr Charamba says military officials informed the group that tens of thousands of protesters calling for the president's resignation could target Mr Mugabe personally.

"It was possible because the soldiers said 'we cannot turn our guns on civilians who are marching against the president and spill blood,'" the Daily News reports Mr Charamba as saying.

Libya’s former leader Muammar Gaddafi was captured then killed in 2011 following an uprising against his four-decade rule.

Zimbabwe's anti-corruption agency is investigating whether the former First Lady Grace Mugabe fraudulently obtained a doctorate.

Lecturers at the University of Zimbabwe filed a petition last week asking to investigate.

She was awarded the PhD just months after enrolling at university in 2014 even though doctorates typically require years of full-time research.

Mrs Mugabe has previously defended her academic record.

In September, she told a governing party rally that she had earned her PhD despite her detractors' skepticism.

Mrs Mugabe was awarded a PhD by the University of Zimbabwe.

But lecturers at the same institution are behind the petition to investigate how she obtained the qualification.

Zimbabwe Independent, a privately owned newspaper, quotes the academics' petition as saying they had no knowledge of her 2014 graduation until they heard media reports:

"This was a shock to many members of the department as most members never [saw] or heard about the proposal, progress reports, thesis examiners and outcome of such a study by the candidate."

Local media report that Mrs Mugabe's doctoral thesis has not been made public, breaking with usual practice.

Mrs Mugabe was personally capped by her husband and then-president Robert Mugabe, who was also the chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe.

She had hoped to replace her husband as leader, but antagonised a faction of the ruling Zanu-PF party which led to a fallout within the party.

The military then stepped in and forced President Mugabe to end his 37-year rule and installed his former deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, as president.

Leading Zimbabwean opposition activist Pastor Evan Mawarire has been acquitted on charges of trying to overthrow Robert Mugabe's former government.

The organiser of last year's #ThisFlag protests faced 20 years in prison had he been convicted.

A Harare high court judge ruled there was no evidence that he had "urged a violent removal of government".

The case was seen as a test of judicial independence after the forced resignation of Mr Mugabe last week.

The former president, who stepped down after soldiers placed him under house arrest, was long accused of using the courts to hound his political opponents.

Tweeting a selfie taken in the courtroom, the smiling pastor called on his fellow citizens to join in "building a better Zimbabwe".

Pastor Mawarire galvanised people outside and inside Zimbabwe, encouraging them to protest about perceived corruption and economic mismanagement under President Mugabe.

Some Zimbabweans will see his acquittal as a symbolic victory, coming just after Mr Mugabe's resignation and the inauguration of his former deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, as president, the BBC's Shingai Nyoka reports from Harare.

However, Amnesty International's regional director for Southern Africa, Deprose Muchena, warned there was still work to do.

"Hopefully the ruling signals a new beginning for the country, where the political repression which characterised Mugabe's rule will no longer be tolerated," he said.

"The task for President Mnangagwa now is to ensure that a culture exists in Zimbabwe in which voices from outside his government are free to air their opinions on an equal platform, without fear of facing criminal charges."

The acquittal had been expected because when the pastor was granted bail, a judge had hinted that the case against him was weak.

Robert Mugabe will continue to have a role to play in Zimbabwean politics, the Jesuit priest who helped negotiate his resignation has told the BBC.

Father Fidelis Mukonori said he would provide "advice" as an elder statesman, including to the new president.

Mr Mugabe, 93, resigned on Tuesday after a military intervention and days of mass protests.

Mr Mukonori said he could not confirm reports that the ex-leader was granted $10m (£7.5m) to ease him out of office.

Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn in to replace Mr Mugabe as president on Friday.

Mr Mnangagwa, long a close ally of Mr Mugabe, was sacked earlier this month, triggering the political crisis that eventually saw his boss's downfall.

Father Mukonori, 70, who is close to Robert Mugabe and acted as a mediator between him and the military, said the new president would go to his predecessor for political counsel.

"In the African world, senior citizens are there for advice," he told the BBC's Richard Galpin at a church outside the capital, Harare, after leading a service that included prayers giving thanks for the peaceful transfer of power.

He referred to what Mr Mnangagwa said about his predecessor at his inauguration.

"When he says 'he's my father, he's my leader, he's my mentor', you tell me he's going to stay off from his father, from his mentor, from his leader? I don't think so."

The priest said that Mr Mugabe and his wife Grace remained at their house in Harare and had no plans to leave the country.

The military takeover came in response to Mr Mugabe's decision to position Grace as his successor and sack Mr Mnangagwa from the vice-presidency.

Father Mukonori said he could not confirm reports that the ex-president was granted millions of dollars and promised that his assets would not be touched to persuade him to step down.

"We didn't offer him anything... He resigned for the good of Zimbabwe," he said.

He added: "What I have read in the newspapers is about immunity [from prosecution], and that he will be looked after like any other former head of state."

Mr Mugabe leaving power, he added, was the best thing he had ever done.

Emmerson Mnangagwa is to be sworn in as Zimbabwe's president, following the dramatic departure of Robert Mugabe after 37 years of authoritarian rule.

The former vice-president - who returned from exile on Wednesday - will be inaugurated at Harare's stadium.

His dismissal this month led the ruling Zanu-PF party and the army to intervene and force Mr Mugabe to quit.

The opposition is urging Mr Mnangagwa, who has been part of the ruling elite, to end the "culture of corruption".

The news on Tuesday that 93-year-old Mr Mugabe was stepping down sparked wild celebrations across the country.

It came in the form of a letter read out in parliament, abruptly halting impeachment proceedings against him.

In it, Mr Mugabe said he was resigning to allow a smooth and peaceful transfer of power, and that his decision was voluntary.

Neither Mr Mugabe nor his wife Grace have been seen in public since Sunday, and their whereabouts are unknown.

On Thursday, several reports suggested Mr Mugabe had been granted immunity from prosecution.

He is not expected to attend Mr Mnangagwa's inauguration, the BBC's Andrew Harding reports.

The official explanation for Mr Mugabe's absence is that the 93-year-old needs to rest.

But the fact he is not attending is a stark reminder that this is no ordinary transition, our correspondent adds, that despite his official resignation he was forced out by the military.

The ceremony will be at the 60,000-capacity National Sports Stadium in the capital, with organisers calling on Zimbabweans to come and witness a "historic day".

Ahead of the swearing-in, Mr Mnangagwa urged Zimbabweans to "remain patient and peaceful and desist from any form of vengeful retribution".

He fled to South Africa two weeks ago - only to return home on Wednesday to a hero's welcome.

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