The presidents of South Africa, Nigeria and Malawi have held talks with President Robert Mugabe about how to tackle Zimbabwe's political and economic crisis.
The visit by Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and Bakili Muluzi of Malawi come amid growing speculation that Mr Mugabe may be considering early retirement.
The three leaders also held talks with Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Officially, the talks with Mr Mugabe are aimed at pushing for dialogue between the ruling Zanu-PF party and the MDC. But commentators say the Zimbabwean leader's possible retirement plans could be central to the meeting.
Is it time for Robert Mugabe to step down? Do you think the Zimbabwean leader is considering early retirement?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
Mugabe is very sly
Mugabe is very sly and crafty. How many times has he hinted an early retirement to ease pressure off his back, only to turn back around and start preaching the gospel of 'nationalism' and the completion of the liberation struggle. What makes this time any different?
Baba vaTutu, USA
As a Zimbabwean with family still in Harare, it is heartening to see some of the African leaders starting to realise the bigger picture. What happens next door, or just down the street does affect you. Mugabe is a product of the war era and as such has no place in the new Zimbabwe. He has achieved, in his own words, his goals of land reforms. Now it is time to stand aside and let the country prosper once more.
African leaders do not understand the word retirement. A President is just like a king and he is supposed to rule forever or until he dies. Whether his people like him or not does not matter.
Tony Fwah, Nigeria
Mugabe can no longer "retire honourably", that option is not available to him any more. He is destined to go down in history as another thug turned politician, who outstayed his welcome due mainly to a fundamental misunderstanding of democracy
Edgar, South Africa
Voluntarily stepping down will reward him with some dignity
Mwaura Mwembu, California, USA
Mugabe's persistent cling to power does not help him or his countrymen in any way and he should retire. The world realised that he was re-elected fraudulently, and that has propelled the daily pressure for him to step down. Voluntarily stepping down will reward him with some dignity, and salvage the Zimbabweans from global isolationism.
Mwaura Mwembu, California, USA
President Mugabe has done his part. The majority of Zimbabweans should be grateful for the freedom he helped secure, but he has run out of ideas both economically and politically. He should step aside and allow other Zimbabweans with fresh and innovative ideas and visions to emerge.
Charles Okeke, USA
Little will be served by Mugabe stepping down from power except to raise Western hopes for an improved situation in Zimbabwe. I'm afraid that Mugabe is simply conducting himself and the country's affairs in the traditional Zimbabwean way and the next incumbent will do the same.
Geoff Oliver, UK/Zimbabwe
Why should he step down early?
I don't think that Mugabe is contemplating on early retirement because he has said that he was democratically elected and he must serve his term in office. In fact, why should he step down early? Is it because America, Great Britain and Australia refused to accept the elections result? I urge Mugabe to keep on, he is a true son of Africa.
Fonsia M. Donzo, Liberia
I was in Zimbabwe from August 2000 until November 2001 and I have seen with my own eyes the torture of anyone who supports freedom of thought and the idea that Zimbabwe could be better off without Bobby. I married a girl from Gweru who has family still there and we receive their letters telling us how everything has become much worse since Bobby was re-elected. Now that Bush has the oil fields of Iraq will he now get rid of other dictators like Mugabe? I don't think so, because Zimbabwe has nothing of use to the US.
Brendan Macken, Ireland
I don't believe Mr Mugabe should retire just because the west thinks so. He was the victor in the last election therefore he should be allowed to serve his term. I don't see calls for the retirement of Mr Obasanjo, although he was recently re-elected under the same very dubious circumstances. All we call for is equality - what is perceived bad should be bad across the board.
Peter Olak, UK
The guy has been there too long
I really don't understand why Mugabe can't be removed. The guy has been there too long and he has become a liability to this beautiful country. Must we wait for him to do worse things than he has done already?
Moses Aluoch, Kenya
There are three sides to every story. Yours, mine and the truth. All our small change comments are distorted by our upbringing and life experience, which means we do not see the whole truth for what it is.
Let us look at the facts. No African dictator/leader has ever gone quietly when faced with the options Mugabe has.
He will die in office and leave Zimbabwe in the economical and social pigsty-state that it is in right now. Where there is smoke there is fire. Let us not look the other way.
Alex Booyse, Zimbo in UK
I am not a fan of Mugabe but why will he retire? It is up to the Zimbabweans to throw him out. He is not the only unelected leader in the so-called democratic world. Will Bush quit if Mugabe retires? Will Blair retire?
Venkat V, UK
I don't believe that Mugabe does have majority support otherwise he would have had no problem holding fair and just elections. During the apartheid years South Africa was placed under extreme pressure from the global community and rightly so. I don't see how Mugabe's policies can be seen as any less racist because they supposedly have some justification due to hardships endured under colonial rule, which has now been gone for numerous years. It isn't a question of retirement... he has to go.
Little is served by the forceful removal of a dictator
Whilst I would strongly advise Mugabe to retire, its a matter for Zimbabweans not the international community. Little is served by the forceful removal of a dictator, or the intervention by other countries in the internal affairs on another country. That only creates divisions for decades thereafter. However whilst he remains the only support the country should get is humanitarian and his recognition outside the country should be limited. Let his people decide one way or other.
David Fisher, Singapore
Mugabe has run out of steam. He has lost focus of his country's political, economic and social problems. He therefore has to make way for the next generation to realise the hopes and dreams of every Zimbabwean.
Hubert Charles, Sierra Leone
Europeans should get out of Africa totally. She has the ability to heal herself and invoke justice if left alone. So much talk about Mugabe's election - why not the same for George Bush's "election"?
All of this arrogant aggression is a front to pave the way for more greedy white men to try to control all of the world's resources.
I want to say that even if Mugabe should retire, he should not handover to Morgan Tsvangirai because he(Tsvangirai) would only be a puppet of Britain and other Western imperialist nations.
Salami Adamu, Nigeria
Mugabe has, and is still, using politics to ensure his own survival and riches
The most shocking part of all this to me is that there are still support for Mugabe. I look at all the comments in disgust as most of them are from foreign countries, who seem to see in this a racial issue rather than what it really is. Mugabe has, and is still using politics to ensure his own survival and riches. The real question is, where is the "world loving" USA when it comes to problems that can't enrich them?
John Bobawe, Zimbabwe
Why is the World still talking on whether Mugabe should retire or not? He is a brute that has kept his country under perpetual agony, economic slavery and there is no democracy practised within the country. Mugabe is an epitome of dictatorship and all hands should be on deck to ensure that this Saddam of Zimbabwe is booted out now. However, this is typical of African leaders. They come into power and will want to die ruling the people even when it is clear that they are no longer wanted by the people.
Ogwumike S.E., Nigeria
Mr. Mugabe has been in power for over 20 years. In all these years he was friendly with Britain and other powers. His people had no major complaints over his policies. He was the freedom fighter and succeeded in liberating his country form colonial rule. Most recently Britain and its allies turned against him simply because of his land policy. Problems in the implementation might have occurred but Britain and other countries should have helped the government rather than calling for sanctions. The question whether Mugabe should retire from the politics of his country should be left to himself and the people of Zimbabwe. As long as his people want him he can stay in power. The western media including the BBC should play a positive role rather than being the propaganda agents of their governments.
Mandefrot Belay, Ethiopia
The longer a leader stays in power, the more miserable conditions become for his people
Mugabe has been in power for 23 years. Isn't that too long for an elected leader? Anyhow, here's a broader question: Isn't it obvious that the longer a leader stays in power, the more miserable conditions become for his people? Look at Fidel Castro, Jung in North Korea, Eyadema in Togo, Mobutu in Zaire/Congo, Siad Barre in Somalia, etc, etc.
Obiba Ghanani, USA
I think that white farmers in Zimbabwe need international protection, because they are persecuted by Mugabe's regime, many murdered just because they are white. It must come to an end. Good people all over the world must act, even invade Zimbabwe to return the farms to white farmers, who are their very owners. Those who are responsible for killing of many innocent whites must be brought to justice.
Lev Fedorov, Russia
Mugabe has done nothing wrong, he is simply being victimised for claiming our democratic right to our land. To me the British are only interested in safeguarding their interest in my country rather than facing the facts. The fact is Zimbabwean's need their land.
He is now a liability to Zimbabwe
Oh, yes he should have left office before marrying Grace but because he is arrogant, so he cannot. I really do not understand why he is still in office - he is making sure that he wants to hand over to his son. What I am trying to say is he is now a liability to Zimbabwe.
Bob will not leave unless he has set himself up nicely in the process. It would be a tragedy if he managed to get away with the chaos he has plunged Zimbabwe into. Leaders in Africa need to learn that there are consequences to their actions. If they don't have to face the music, then why should anyone else.
Patrick, South Africa
He was not democratically re-elected. He persecutes his political opponents. He violates the civil rights of white farmers. He is destroying his nations economy. He is starving his people. He is making life more miserable for all Zimbabweans. He should not only be forced into retirement. He should be jailed.
He wants to retire at his on pace, not to be fast-tracked by some evil Western leaders
Varungu Hamunyare, Zambia
Mugabe did not ruin his economy. I live on the Zambia / Zimbabwe border. Zimbabwe's economy was ruined by sanctions imposed on the country when Mugabe started the land redistribution, and of course the drought. The UK organised those sanctions to protect its kith and kin. I have friends in Harare who say he wants to retire at his on pace, not to be fast-tracked by some evil Western leaders.
Varungu Hamunyare, Zambia
I do feel it is time for the old man to call it a day. He has done his part for Zimbabwe - we cannot deny that. However he has outlived his welcome and all has turned sour and ugly. In 1980, never was a man so loved. Come 2000, never has a man been so despised. It is now time for him to relinquish his power to put it mildly and politely.
Colleen Sanderson, Zimbabwean in England
He will be there for a long time to come. He has caused irreparable damage to the economy and citizens of Zimbabwe. The so-called civilised Western world should hold another election monitored by a significant force who will over see the whole election, not a bunch of weak willed EU "observers".
Ben Henson, New Zealand
It wouldn't be early retirement - he should have quit long ago
It wouldn't be early retirement - he should have quit long ago! He has been an instrument of destruction, oppression, and obstruction for a generation's progression in Zimbabwe.
President Mugabe must not step down. I repeat he should not step down because he is the choice of the people of Zimbabwe. Those who want their country to be run by Western agents should not be given any consideration by the people of Zimbabwe. Long live African unity, long live Zimbabwe.
Majur M, USA
I wonder what do the PC lobby groups, not to mention Asian and African governments, now think when they see Zimbabwe's people suffering at the hands of this evil dictator?
David Votoupal, Sydney, Australia
The natives of Zimbabwe have a right to self determination, as Mugabe is supposedly championing
Rosemary Naivalurua, Fiji Islands
The natives of Zimbabwe have a right to self-determination, as Mugabe is supposedly championing. But he is only there for power and for his own gain. He is a tyrant just like Saddam and I think that he needs to be dealt with. He lacks the vision and common sense that is needed to steer the country into the right direction. Instead he is just trying to mollycoddle his supporters and make them happy at the expense of others - the typical power game. Zimbabweans will be better off without Mugabe and what they need is a young, dynamic, honest and visionary leader. But then he should be protected from the likes of Mugabe who won't give up that power very easily.
Rosemary Naivalurua, Fiji Islands
I don't think Uncle Bob should retire, it is far too civilised. He must be answerable for the human rights abuses that he has committed. It is high time in Africa that leaders are held accountable for what they do, this includes robbing the country which they think they belongs to them for their personal use. Mr Mugabe has forgotten that he has an obligation to the people of his country to do the best for his people - since he is an elected leader, or is he?
Gail, South Africa
Robert Mugabe must not, under any circumstances whatsoever, think of retirement. He is doing a great job and is setting an example for the rest of the African leaders. I think that the three visiting leaders should follow the footsteps of Robert Mugabe and work for a "United States of Africa."
Muhammad Khalid Qureshi, Pakistan
I just don't understand how Muluzi, Obasanjo and Mbeki could be expected to put pressure on Mugabe
I just don't understand how Muluzi, Obasanjo and Mbeki could be expected to put pressure on Mugabe to step down on grounds of the Zimbabwean economy being in the doldrums or the election results being dubious. The obvious answer from this cunning dictator will be - a comparison to Malawi's failing economy and the recent Nigerian elections to Zimbabwe. If anyone is going to put pressure on Mugabe, it need not be those three because they are in the same stable as "Uncle Bob"
Mugabe is stupid enough to remain in power even though Zimbabweans continue to suffer from his foolish policies and decisions. If he could leave, it would be the first time in the last few years he would put the interests of his country before his own interests.
Patrice Ndongo-Seh, United States
The situation in Zimbabwe is now desperate. We need good political leadership that is committed to the will of the people. Mugabe has failed and it is only fair that he retire. He has caused anarchy in Zimbabwe and now violence is being deliberately used by his followers. He has failed to show his followers the direction expected from a good leader. He is only interested in remaining in power by any means necessary. He is abusing the land crisis but not all black people want land. I am one of those who do not want to be a farmer but would like to have a job and be able to look after our families. It is so sad that Zimbabweans have been turned into beggars by Mugabe. We do not want to be in these foreign lands but the Mugabe regime has left us with no option. May he please retire so that he can pave way for a democratic Zimbabwe. Only then can we return home to build our nation. Our services as doctors are desperately wanted in Zimbabwe.
Dr Brighton Chireka, United kingdom
Everyone seems to avoid the fact that Bob has the support of the majority of Zimbabwe's people who actually live in the rural areas and they also have the right to have a leader of their choice. Therefore it should be up to them whether or not he retires
Zimbabwe, the land of my birth, is an amazingly beautiful country with enormous potential. It is tragic that one man's greed and lust for power has brought about so much chaos and suffering. If only Zimbabwe could have been blessed with the likes of the late Mr Sisulu and Mr Mandela.
Those Zimbabweans who really understand the independence of our country from colonialists would not want Bob to retire today
Surely Bob will retire sooner or later. Those Zimbabweans who really understand the independence of our country from colonialists would not want Bob to retire today regardless of the economic mess brought about by him and his detractors as well, but unfortunately they are back with a vengeance. Poor Zimbabwe, poor Bob.
I don't think that President Mugabe should be compelled to resign his current mandate from his people if he truly won the mandate by a fair ballot. Otherwise, Britain's problem with his government might have been genuine.
Wale Olasunmade, Nigeria
Oh yes Mugabe should definitely go. How can one man make a million people go through such misery when he is busy not missing a single meal. Mugabe, you have had what you wanted to have in life. The problem with African leaders is that they are not after governing, but becoming wealthy.
Exilda Jika, Zambia
Mugabe should be kicked to the curb!
Oh yes definitely. That goes without saying. And I wish people who are not in this situation and who think Mugabe should stay would just come here for a month and see how they like going without bread, cooking oil, margarine, sugar, flour etc. It's just a sign that the farms are not being given to farmers but to ministers and their friends and relatives. Mugabe should be kicked to the curb!
We mandated Mugabe to rule up to the end of the term (2008). I am a newly resettled farmer, what guarantee do I have that whoever will be coming after Mugabe retires does not take my A2 plot away? At least after 2008 I will have successfully stood my ground as a farmer.
Viny Shumba, Harare, Zimbabwe
'Retirement' suggests some sort of civilised departure, which would be at a complete variance with the uncivilised manner in which this man has conducted his presidency.
Mugabe should not retire until the land distribution has been completed
Mugabe should not retire until the land distribution has been completed. We should not allow the British to decide our leader for us. Bringing in the leader of the opposition party is treachery. How can you be an independent country when foreigners with British passports control 95% of the fertile land?
NEPAD can not honestly say that Africa has changed from it corrupt old ways while Mugabe is still in power. Investors can not trust NEPAD whilst this is the case.
What we should ask the British Government that is hounding Mr Mugabe is this: Was Ian Smith's government better than Mugabe's? The British Government aided and stood solidly behind Mr Smith when he was pillaging Rhodesia. There is no easier way of turning a dictator than challenging your colonial master. Britain should leave Mugabe alone to finish his good work of clearing the mess left behind by her.
Onyeriri Tochukwu S, Chicago/Nigeria
If people want Mugabe removed, please do not ask the Western world to do it. Africa has to show that it actually cares. Stand up for once and do what's right, not sit back and do nothing.
Let him give a chance to younger politicians to inject vigour into Zimbabwe's political landscape
Mugabe should definitely retire. He should respect the law of diminishing return. Let him give a chance to younger politicians to inject vigour into Zimbabwe's political landscape.
Bintou Suso, Gambia
Mugabe needs to step down and let the country recover and fulfil its wonderful potential. He has done more to ruin Zim than any other dictator in Africa.
Robert Mugabe is another African leader that is a disgrace to Africa. He must leave the scene now!
Wadiah J Massoud,
Of course he should. He's over 65 and doing a job that plenty of others could do far better. The sooner he retires, the quicker he can be called to account for his actions and start paying for them.
We have no right to comment or get involved in another sovereign nation's government
As was pointed out by the Iraq anti-war movement, we have no right to comment or get involved in another sovereign nation's government. So, mind your business and don't ask the question!
John from USA, you are the only one who has said something sensible. Surely, if Mugabe should retire after the land reform is complete, perhaps the same should be said about George Bush now that Saddam Hussein is no longer in Iraq?!
With more than 3/4 of the population of Zimbabwe facing starvation, an economy in ruins and very little political support it is definitely time for Mugabe to retire. Mugabe did his part for Zimbabwe in the 1970s and 1980s but has done more harm than good since then. Now it's time for Mugabe to step aside and allow a new leader to become president of Zimbabwe.
Chris, Ontario, Canada
I work with someone from Zimbabwe so I am influenced by his views, and what I read in the news. President Mugabe has not brought prosperity to the people and is no diplomat. He seems unable to get along with others and rules by intimidation and fear. He should retire.
Allegra McCampbell, USA
President Robert Mugabe should transfer power to next available person. New, fair, and fresh elections should take place by November 2003. Restoration of credit in government is very important for economic stability now.
Mugabe's stay in power has done more harm than good
Mugabe's stay in power has done more harm than good. He should retire honourably. Somebody else should try.
Ebuwa Osaghae, Nigeria
I hope he is retiring. He is a demagogue and a dictator. The world was full of men like that 50 or 100 years ago, but we have no room for men like him anymore.
Gordon Silliker, USA
I think now the mission has been accomplished - the land has been given back to its owners. Hence, it is better that he retired for the sake of the ailing economy of his country.