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'They will start impeaching him': Process to oust Robert Mugabe begins

The 93-year-old leader’s own party Zanu-PF has begun the process to impeach its former leader.

President Robert Mugabe delivers his speech during a live broadcast last week.
President Robert Mugabe delivers his speech during a live broadcast last week.
Image: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi via PA Images

ZIMBABWE’S RULING PARTY is to launch impeachment proceedings today against President Robert Mugabe, in the latest bid to oust the 93-year-old strongman still clinging to power after 37 years in office.

A military takeover last week was followed by huge street protests against the authoritarian leader, and the Zanu-PF, his own once-loyal party, has also turned against him.

“The party has instructed the chief whip to proceed with impeachment processes,” Zanu-PF said in a statement, with the motion due to be presented before parliament today.

Yesterday evening, army chief Constantino Chiwenga told reporters that progress had been made in talks towards an apparent exit deal for Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state.

He also said Mugabe was in touch with Emmerson Mnangagwa, the ousted vice president whose sacking led to the military takeover and Mugabe’s shock loss of power.

“The security services are encouraged by new developments which include contact between the president and the former vice president… who is expected in the country shortly,” Chiwenga said.

The nation will be advised of the outcome of talks between the two.

Zimbabwe Political Turmoil Zimbabweans watch President Robert Mugabe delivering his speech. Source: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi via PA Images

Chiwenga called for calm on Saturday after Zimbabweans had celebrated at anti-Mugabe marches that would have been brutally repressed just a week ago.

Holding on

The marchers’ joy quickly turned to despair as Mugabe brushed aside the turmoil, blithely declaring on Sunday that he would chair a top-level meeting of the party that had just disavowed him.

In a televised address, the president defied expectations he would step down, pitching the country into a second week of political crisis.

Zimbabwe Political Turmoil A woman walks past a painting of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in Harare. Source: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi via PA Images

Mugabe is feted in parts of Africa as the continent’s last surviving independence leader.

He was a key figure in the war for independence and took office as prime minister in 1980, riding a wave of goodwill.

His reputation was swiftly tarnished, however, by his authoritarian instincts, rights abuses and economic policies.

Most Zimbabweans have known life only under his rule, which has been defined by violent suppression, economic collapse and international isolation.

Despite his fragile health, Mugabe had previously said he would stand in elections next year that could have kept him in power until he was nearly 100 years old.

But a factional squabble over the presidential succession erupted into the open on 13 November, precipitating the crisis.

Mugabe’s wife Grace, 52, secured prime position to succeed her husband when Mnangagwa, who is close to the military leadership, was abruptly fired.

After Mnangagwa fled abroad, the army took over the country and placed Mugabe under house arrest.

The army insists it has not carried out a coup, but rather an operation to arrest allegedly corrupt supporters around the Mugabe family.

Public anger rising?

Zanu-PF lawmakers said that they would take the first steps to impeach Mugabe today after he ignored their ultimatum to resign.

“We have the numbers, the opposition is also going to support us,” Vongai Mupereri, a party MP, said.

“We are going to impeach – the man has to go,” said another Zanu-PF lawmaker, MacKenzie Ncube.

Chris Vandome, an analyst at the Chatham House, a London-based think-tank, warned of the risk of public unrest.

“They will start impeaching him (today), that is certainly the will of the military, but it’s increasingly now the will of the people,” Vandome told AFP.

The longer this goes on for, the more the likelihood of violence increases.

Legal experts say impeachment could take weeks and be subject to court appeals.

Mugabe is thought to be battling to delay his exit in order to secure a deal that would guarantee protection for him and his family.

“It might take days and weeks, but Mugabe is on his way out,” said Charles Muramba, a 46-year-old bus driver in Harare.

© AFP 2017

Read: Army appeals for calm as Mugabe faces impeachment test in Zimbabwe

Read: Mugabe defies resignation expectations in TV speech

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