Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe delivered an address to the nation on Sunday night but refused to resign, saying instead that they can not be guided by bitterness and vowing to preside over next month’s congress of the ruling party.
Mugabe, who is 93 and one of the world’s longest-ruling leaders, delivered his speech from the State House while flanked by army commanders. People across the country had gathered to watch the address, expecting him to announce his resignation.
The president said that the military operation which began on Tuesday, when soldiers were deployed in the capital Harare, did not pose a threat to Zimbabwe’s constitutional order or his authority. Instead, he said, the soldiers were motivated by ‘patriotic concern’ for their people.
“I, as the president of Zimbabwe and their commander in chief, do acknowledge the issues they have drawn my attention to,” said Mugabe, who was placed under house arrest during Tuesday’s operation. He later appeared at a graduation ceremony as confusion continued about his status.
The crisis began earlier this month when Mugabe accused Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa of disloyalty and fired him. It prompted army chief Constantino Chiwenga, who is reportedly close to Mnangagwa, to warn of an intervention if infighting continued.
Earlier on Sunday, the ruling ZANU-PF party fired Mugabe as its leader and appointed Mnangagwa to succeed him. First Lady Grace Mugabe, meanwhile, was removed as the head of the women’s league and expelled from the party, along with 20 of her associates.
Patrick Chinamasa, the chair of the Zanu-PF disciplinary committee, warned Mugabe to announce his resignation by Monday afternoon or face impeachment. It’s unclear how long such a process would take as it has never been done before.
“Mugabe should resign forthwith from his position as president and the head of the government of the Republic of Zimbabwe and if his resignation has not been tendered by midday tomorrow, the Zanu-PF chief whip is ordered to introduce proceedings for the recall of the president,” Chinamasa said.
Responding to Sunday’s address to the nation, the leader of Zimbabwe’s war veterans told Reuters that plans to impeach Mugabe would go ahead as scheduled. He added that he would call on citizens to take to the streets of Harare on Wednesday.
Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since 1987, making him one of the world’s longest-ruling leaders. Zimbabwe has long faced sanctions from the international community for alleged human rights abuses and vote-rigging by Mugabe.
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