Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe should announce his resignation and "gracefully accept the inevitable".
This, according to University of Witwatersrand associate professor and international relations expert Anthoni van Nieuwkerk, who told HuffPost that a military coup in Zimbabwe will end tragically.
In an interview on Wednesday, Van Nieuwkerk said the running of a democratic country should not be in the hands of the military.
"This is not a regime change... There's no chance in my view of the opposition coming together and taking over government... If a coup happens, it's not good news. The running of a country in a democracy should be by elected representatives of the people, and should be by a political party that wins an election," he said.
"In a democracy, the army or the military is held accountable by the executive... If you break all the rules of democracy, you have the generals taking over the running of the civilian government."
Van Nieuwkerk said this generally leads to instability, chaos, international isolation and the collapse of the economy.
"Soldiers are not trained to run government; soldiers are trained to fight wars. There is a fundamental contradiction... [Mugabe] must gracefully accept the inevitable and announce his retirement immediately," he said.
Speaking about South Africa's role in mediation, Van Nieuwkerk said it is up to the people of Zimbabwe to decide on their way forward, and whether they want South Africa's assistance.
"South Africa is a member of the African Union, we are the chair of the South African Development Community, and Zimbabwe is a neighbouring country. So on three levels, we have to play a role in supporting stabilisation and another transition to democracy," he said.
"Zimbabwe is a neighbouring country, and if this military intervention results in a humanitarian tragedy, we will have no choice but to give assistance. I'm not saying that South Africa should intervene militarily... the only option we have is a diplomatic one, and that is to play a mediating role if asked."
He added that South Africa should not intervene in Zimbabwe without a request for assistance.
"This is a military who is supporting one faction of the ruling party over another one, saying: 'Stop this nonsense of kicking out liberation veterans and struggle heroes, and stop choosing the people that you think should lead the country in the next period of time!'" Van Nieuwkerk explained.
"The military intervened to block [Grace Mugabe], and to stop her from doing that. She is the power behind the throne; it is no longer [Robert Mugabe]... This is a coup from within –– an insider coup, if you like."