Emmerson Mnangagwa, left, and Robert Mugabe. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/AFP/JEKESAI NJIKIZAMA
Emmerson Mnangagwa, left, and Robert Mugabe. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/AFP/JEKESAI NJIKIZAMA

Harare — Zimbabwe’s former vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, on Tuesday morning rejected overtures from President Robert Mugabe to hold a meeting with him in order to discuss the crisis engulfing the country.

Mnangagwa said he would return to the country only when there was a guarantee of his security by the defence forces and from Zanu-PF, and urged that Mugabe respect the will of the people by stepping down.

"To me the voice of the people is the voice of God and their lack of trust and confidence in the leadership of President Mugabe has been expressed.

"Several groups including students, general workers, opposition party members, vendors, religious organisations and ordinary citizens led by our war veterans, our party members in Zanu-PF, civic society, and all races and creeds in Zimbabwe clearly demonstrated without violence their insatiable desire to have the resignation of His Excellency, Cde Robert Gabriel Mugabe," he said.

Mnangagwa said by stepping down, Mugabe would at least move "the country forward and preserve his legacy".

He said that in a telephone conversation with Mugabe he had told him that there were only two options available to him.

"That is to co-operate in the current negotiations with comrades from the defence forces for a peaceful resolution of this crisis, which would result in the preservation of his legacy. That if he continues to dig in, in defiance of the will of the people, he might suffer humiliation because definitely the will of the people will prevail."

Mugabe on Tuesday faces another test of his rule, as Zimbabwe’s parliament reconvenes after a two-week break with Zanu-PF expected to table a motion of impeachment.

Zanu-PF said on Monday night that at least 230 out of its 260 MPs had said they would vote in support of the motion to impeach Mugabe.

Mnangagwa said he was aware parliament intended to impeach Mugabe and he supported the move.

"Parliament is the ultimate expression of the will of the people outside an election, and in my view is expressing national sentiment by implementing the impeachment proceedings therefore talks between myself and the president cannot supercede the expression and fundamental rights of fellow Zimbabweans," he said.

The dismissal of Mugabe from the helm of Zanu-PF on Sunday was a dramatic turn of events that has resurrected the political star of his former deputy and onetime ally, Mnangagwa.

Until his recall by the Zanu-PF central committee to lead the party, it had looked as though the 75-year-old Mnangagwa had been relegated to a political wilderness for the second time within a decade.

Back in 2004, it had seemed that Mnangagwa was assured of being the anointed successor to take over from Mugabe — but lost out at the 11th hour when a clause was introduced which indicated that the party’s presidium had to include a female candidate.

As a result, Mnangagwa then lost out to Joice Mujuru, the wife of Zimbabwe’s late first army commander, Solomon Mujuru.

Earlier this month, Mugabe fired Mnangagwa from the government and the party for "disloyalty and deceit", claiming Mnangagwa had been plotting to remove him from office using witchcraft.

Patrick Chinamasa, the Zanu-PF legal affairs secretary, said on Sunday that the central committee had resolved to reinstate Mnangagwa in the party. He had been appointed first secretary of Zanu-PF in the interim, until ratification by an extraordinary party congress set for December 12-17, Chinamasa said.

Chris Mutsvangwa, chairman of the war veterans association which has openly backed Mnangagwa, said Mnangagwa was a senior figure who commanded the respect of the military, war veterans and the nation at large.

"We have looked at the persons who are there and we feel that he [Mnangagwa] needs to be given a chance as well," Mutsvangwa said.

Read Mnangagwa's full statement here:

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