Mugabe Stuns The World By Refusing To Resign
An extraordinary day in Zimbabwe’s turbulent political crisis ended with Robert Mugabe refusing to resign and vowing to carry on as head of state despite being officially stripped of the leadership by his own party.
The President is now in direct confrontation with parliament as well as the military. He was given an ultimatum by Zanu-PF, after being removed from office, that he would face impeachment unless he resigned by midday on Monday.
Mr Mugabe was widely expected to stand down in a speech made through state broadcasters this evening. While mentioning errors which have been made by the government in the 14-minute speech , he gave no hint of resigning, insisting instead that he would oversee the needed reforms. He also held that he would preside over a special congress of Zanu-PF next month. “We cannot be guided by bitterness or revengefulness which would not makes us any better … Zimbabweans” he wanted to stress.
The 93-year-old President’s address was given surrounded by military commanders who had placed him and his wife, Grace, under house arrest following a coup which began last Tuesday. Mr Mugabe stumbled over his words, mixed up the pages and apologised for re-reading some of the passages. At the end he appeared to say to an aide “that was a long speech”. The farcical nature of what has unfolded led to questions on social media about whether what he actually said was “that was the wrong speech”.
What he did say, however, led to furious reaction from his critics. The head of the organisation of veterans who fought against white rule accused Mr Mugabe of being “deaf and blind” to the will of the people. Christopher Mutsvangwa had warned earlier today of the risk of violence if the President did not step down: ”We would expect that Mugabe would not have the prospect of the military shooting at people trying to defend him, the choice is really his, he cannot avoid it.”
Impeachment proceedings are due to begin on Monday. Joshua Nhamburu, another veteran, warned: “There will be an end to people’s patience.”
Mr Nhamburu had expected that Mr and Mrs Mugabe would be allowed to go into exile after the President stepped down. He added: “Mugabe has been given enough time now to make his arrangements and leave. His wife Grace, who is a thief, is also being allowed to go. They are both lucky that they are not looking at long years in jail, but their luck may run out soon if they continue acting in this way.”
Mr Mugabe’s rapidly fading hopes of political survival now appears to lie with the African Union and Southern African Development Community (SADC) both of which have strong stances against military coups – a reaction to the repeated takeovers by armed forces of newly independent countries in the continent in the past.
That is the reason why General Chiwenga and the military hierarchy are trying to engineer a voluntary departure by Mr Mugabe. But the appointment of Emmerson Mnangagwa by Zanu-PF as leader and acting President in waiting would, believe senior officers, counter accusations of a military takeover.
Mr Mugabe did not blame the military for the coup, saying it was motivated by “a deep patriotic concern for the stability of the nation” which “did not amount to a threat to our well-cherished constitutional order”. It is unlikely that the army would force him from office, opening the possibility of a long drawn-out impeachment process with popular anger spiralling in the streets.
Mr Mugabe is now an isolated figure without any effective support. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Harare on Saturday demanding that Mr Mugabe and his 52-year-old wife – given the epithets “Gucci Grace” and “DisGrace” by her many critics for her lavish spending on luxuries – must go. His party – including the Youth Wing, which had been fervent Grace loyalists – the opposition, the trade unions and the military are all urging him to go.
Although the mood of the crowd was celebratory at the prospect of deliverance from Mr Mugabe’s rule rather than confrontational, there have been warnings that frustration at Mr Mugabe’s failure to leave may trigger a violent reaction. Mr Mutsvangwa had stated that he “would bring back the crowd to do the business” if Mr Mugabe did not step down.
The announcement of Mr Mugabe’s sacking and replacement by Mr Mnangagwa, a former vice president, was greeted earlier with prolonged applause, singing and dancing by senior figures of Zanu-PF – a scene which would have been unthinkable even a few weeks ago when the President still bestrode the power structure of this country as he had done for the last 37 years.
There were further cheers at the firing of the President’ wife as head of the party’s women’s league. Mrs Mugabe has been accused of corruption and abuse, and has been a hugely divisive figure in the country. She had been responsible for the dismissal of Mr Mnangagwa as vice-president seeking, it is claimed, to take over the post. He subsequently fled to South Africa claiming to fear for his life.
Mr Mugabe had been asking the military for guarantees of immunity from prosecution for himself and his wife. His failure to resign means that such a deal is now off. Some Zanu-PF officials maintained that Mrs Mugabe may face prosecution. Obert Mpofu, the minister of home affairs, who chaired the central committee meeting that sacked her and her husband, said: “Mugabe’s wife and her close associates have taken advantage of his frail condition and abused the resources of the country.”
Emmanuel Fundira, a Zanu-PF MP, added: “It is only right that corrupt and rotten people should be punished. There are resources which have been taken away from this country. Naturally, the laws will follow up and make sure that all those people are brought to book.”