Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe vows to stay on despite army pressure

Media captionRobert Mugabe: “The congress is due… I will preside over its processes”

Zimbabwe’s embattled leader Robert Mugabe has vowed to stay in power for several weeks, despite mounting calls for him to stand down now.

In a live TV address, Mr Mugabe said he would preside over the ruling party’s congress in December.

The Zanu-PF earlier sacked him as party leader, and gave him less than 24 hours to resign as president or be impeached.

His grip on power has weakened since the military intervened on Wednesday, in a row over who should succeed him.

The crisis began when the 93-year-old president sacked his deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, two weeks ago, angering army commanders who saw it as an attempt to position his wife as his successor.

Earlier on Sunday, Mr Mnangagwa was named as Zanu-PF’s new leader and candidate for the 2018 general elections.

At the same party meeting, Mr Mugabe’s 52-year-old wife, Grace, was expelled from the party, alongside a number of other senior officials.

But in his speech later in the day, Mr Mugabe made no direct mention of those developments.

“The (ruling Zanu-PF) party congress is due in a few weeks and I will preside over its processes,” he told the nation, flanked by senior military generals at his official residence in Harare. He spoke slowly, occasionally stumbling over his words.

Image copyright
Reuters

Image caption

Robert Mugabe defied expectations by not resigning on Sunday night

President Mugabe acknowledged criticism from Zanu-PF, the military and public, and stressed the need to return Zimbabwe to normalcy.

“Whatever the pros and cons of how they (the army) went about their operation, I, as commander-in-chief, do acknowledge their concerns,” he said, in reference to the army’s move last week to take over the state broadcaster.

He said their actions had not violated the constitution, but he did not mention any possibility of resigning.

Tens of thousands had joined huge demonstrations on Saturday, with many believing he was about to step down.

  • After the Mugabes, which African dynasties remain?
  • Zimbabwe in 10 numbers

It is not entirely clear how Robert Mugabe can preside over Zanu-PF’s congress next month, following his dismissal as party leader.

Party positions are officially decided at the congress and Emmerson Mnangagwa may officially take over leading the country then.

Mr Mnangagwa, a former state security chief, is nicknamed “the crocodile” for his perceived shrewdness. He fled Zimbabwe after his sacking a fortnight ago, but has since reportedly returned.

Image copyright
Reuters

Image caption

Mr Mnangagwa is poised to take over the ruling Zanu-PF party in December

The head of the influential War Veterans Association, which used to back Mr Mugabe but now demands his resignation, told AFP they would call for further protests.

“That speech has nothing to do with realities. We will go for impeachment and we are calling people back to the streets,” said Chris Mutsvangwa.

Zanu-PF has given Mr Mugabe until midday local time (10:00 GMT) on Monday to resign or else face impeachment proceedings.

Impeaching the president would require a two-thirds majority in both houses of Zimbabwe’s parliament, which is due to resume on Tuesday.

The opposition MDC-T party has tried unsuccessfully to impeach Mr Mugabe in the past, but this time the ruling party – which has an overwhelming majority in both houses – is likely to go against him.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said he was “baffled” by the president’s address.

“He’s playing a game. He has let the whole nation down,” he told Reuters news agency.

Mr Mugabe has been leader of Zimbabwe for 37 years, having led the country since it gained independence from Britain in 1980.

The TV address on Sunday was the president’s second public appearance since the crisis erupted, after he attended a university graduation ceremony on Friday.

Tags:
author

Author: