People watch as Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe addresses the nation on television, in Harare, Zimbabwe, November 19, 2017. Picture: REUTERS
People watch as Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe addresses the nation on television, in Harare, Zimbabwe, November 19, 2017. Picture: REUTERS

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe defied expectations that he would resign on Sunday, pledging to preside over a Zanu-PF congress in December, even though the ruling party had removed him as its leader hours earlier.

In an address to the nation on Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation on Sunday evening, Mugabe acknowledged the difficulties the country was experiencing, and said there should be no bitterness and that he would preside over his party’s conference in a few weeks, ignoring the fact he is no longer its leader.

Zanu-PF gave the 93-year-old less than 24 hours to quit as head of state or face impeachment, an apparent attempt to secure a peaceful end to his reign after a de facto coup.

Mugabe said in his address on state television that he acknowledged criticism against him from Zanu-PF, the military and the public, but did not comment on the possibility of standing down.

The leader of Zimbabwe’s war veterans said shortly after Mugabe’s television appearance that plans to impeach Mugabe would go ahead as scheduled.

Chris Mutsvangwa, who has been leading a campaign to oust Mugabe, said moments after Mugabe’s address that people would take to the streets of Harare on Wednesday.

Just a fortnight ago, Zanu-PF had backed the 93-year-old Mugabe as its “sole presidential candidate” for the 2018 elections and celebrated him as the “one centre of power”. But now the party has issued its former party leader him with an ultimatum to also resign as president by midday on Monday or risk impeachment by parliament. President Robert Mugabe was facing the end of his 37-year rule on Sunday evening as he prepared to address the nation.

WATCH: Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe on Sunday defied his own ZANU-PF party and hundreds of thousands of protesters demanding his resignation by pledging in a television address to preside over the party’s next congress in December.

A source familiar with the negotiations said that Mugabe had agreed to resign after the Zanu-PF party had sacked him as its leader and told him to resign as head of state.

Mugabe’s grip on power seemed to have been broken last week when the military took over, angered at his wife Grace’s emergence as the leading candidate to succeed the president.

Expectation was mounting that he would resign after Zimbabwe state television announced that he would “address the nation live from State House”.

At a Zanu-PF meeting earlier on Sunday, delegates cheered as a party official announced that Mugabe had been ousted as party chief.

Mugabe was replaced by former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Zanu-PF spokesman Simon Khaya Moyo said 201 of the 300 central committee members had attended a meeting convened at its headquarters in Harare on Sunday, when there was “a unanimous vote” to recall Mugabe as party leader.

“The Zanu-PF chief whip in terms of section 97, amendment no 20 of the constitution of Zimbabwe has been instructed by the party to move a motion for his removal with the
speaker of parliament,” Moyo said on Sunday.

This turn of events, precipitated by a military operation last Wednesday, brought a dramatic end to Mugabe’s political career that few expected. Many were waiting for either his death in office or his appointment of a successor. But marches in the streets by citizens calling on him to step down were allowed by the military on Saturday and watched over by soldiers.

Mugabe’s rejection has not only been by his party, but by Zimbabwean society as well. Hundreds of thousands of people turned up for a solidarity march organised by the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association.

Obert Mpofu, who chaired the Zanu-PF central committee meeting on Sunday, welcomed the party resolution to go ahead with its December congress, which would “reinvigorate and rejuvenate” the party.

The Zanu-PF central committee also expelled at least 20 leading figures of a faction in the party, which is seen to have coalesced around Mugabe.

The high-profile expulsions include women’s league leader Grace Mugabe, vice-president Phelekezela Mphoko, higher education minister Jonathan Moyo, local government minister Saviour Kasukuwere, public service minister Patrick Zhuwao, finance minister Ignatius Chombo and youth league leader Kudzanai Chipanga.

Many of Mugabe’s cabinet ministers have been detained at their homes by the military. Among the resolutions taken at the Zanu-PF central committee meeting was the appointment of Mnangagwa to lead the party in the interim.

Mnangagwa was fired earlier in November by Mugabe on the grounds of plotting to remove him from office. The nullification of his expulsion has inched Mnangagwa much closer to retaining the leadership of the party and government.

The party’s December congress is expected to proceed as scheduled and would ratify the removal of Mugabe and elevation of Mnangagwa.
The US, a longtime Mugabe critic, said it was looking forward to a new era in Zimbabwe, while President Ian Khama of Botswana said Mugabe had no diplomatic support in the region and should resign at once.

The next Zimbabwean presidential election is due in 2018.

With Reuters and AFP

 

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