NEWS

Robert Mugabe Told To Step Down After 37 Years As Zimbabwe's President

He has been given 24 hours to quit.

11/19/2017 12:02 EST | Updated 11/20/2017 09:55 EST

Robert Mugabe is desperately clinging on as Zimbabwe President despite expectations he could quit any moment.

Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party is due to begin discussions to impeach Mugabe on Monday at 12.30pm GMT, Reuters reports.

A ruling party official cited by AP said impeaching Mugabe should take just two days, with the process expected to start on Tuesday.

Earlier, constitutional experts said Mugabe’s impeachment could be pushed through within 24 hours.

The 93-year-old had been expected to announce he was stepping down during an address to the nation on Sunday.

Instead, by the end of the long, rambling speech he had given no indication he was about to depart and signed off with the words: “I thank you and goodnight.”

The ruling ZANU-PF party had earlier sacked Mugabe as party leader and gave him less than 24 hours to quit as head of state or face impeachment, an attempt to secure a peaceful end to his tenure after a de facto coup.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was dumbstruck. “I am baffled. It’s not just me, it’s the whole nation. He’s playing a game,” he said. “He is trying to manipulate everyone. He has let the whole nation down.”

Straight after his address, the leader of Zimbabwe’s war veterans said impeachment plans would go ahead as scheduled after Mugabe defied expectations.

Chris Mutsvangwa, who has been leading a campaign to oust the president, also implied that Mugabe, who spoke with a firm voice but occasionally lost his way in his script during the 20-minute address, was not aware of what had happened just hours earlier.

“Either somebody within ZANU-PF didn’t tell him what had happened within his own party, so he went and addressed that meeting oblivious, or (he was) blind or deaf to what his party has told him,” Mutsvangwa said.

Two sources - one a senior member of the government, the other familiar with talks with leaders of the military - had told Reuters that Mugabe would use the address to announce his resignation.

But in the speech from his official residence, sitting alongside a row of generals, Mugabe acknowledged criticisms from ZANU-PF, the military and the public, but made no mention of his own position, instead pledging to preside over the ZANU-PF congress scheduled for next month.

STR via Getty Images

Mugabe, the only leader the southern African nation has known since independence from Britain in 1980, was replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa, the deputy he sacked this month in a move that triggered the mid-week intervention by the army.

In scenes unthinkable just a week ago, the announcement drew cheers from the 200 delegates packed into ZANU-PF’s Harare headquarters to seal the fate of Mugabe, whose support has crumbled in the four days since the army seized power.

Mugabe has been given until noon on Monday to resign or face impeachment, an ignominious end to the career of the “Grand Old Man” of African politics who was once feted across the continent as an anti-colonial liberation hero.

Mugabe was replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa, the deputy he sacked this month. 

Philimon Bulawayo / Reuters
Mugabe's wife Grace and Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mnangagwa’s dismissal is what prompted the military to move against Mugabe, amid fears he would appoint his wife Grace to succeed him. She was also expelled from the party.

Mnangagwa, a former state security chief known as “The Crocodile,” is now in line to head an interim post-Mugabe unity government that will focus on rebuilding ties with the outside world and stabilising an economy in freefall.

On Saturday, hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets of Harare, singing, dancing and hugging soldiers in an outpouring of elation at Mugabe’s expected overthrow.

Mugabe’s stunning downfall in just four days is likely to send shockwaves across Africa, where a number of entrenched strongmen, from Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni to Democratic Republic of Congo’s Joseph Kabila, are facing mounting pressure to quit.