Zimbabwe’s ruling party sacks Robert Mugabe as leader
Sunday - 19/11/2017 19:55
ROBERT Mugabe has vowed to stay on as Zimbabwe President, despite being sacked by his own party.
ZIMBABWE’S President Robert Mugabe’s has refused to end his 37-year rule, despite being sacked as leader of his party.
Mugabe has addressed national TV, where it was expected he would resign from his leadership role.
However the 93-year-old insisted he would preside over next month’s ZANU-PF Congress, despite being fired as party leader just hours previously.
Mugabe ended his at-times rambling TV address with the words: “I thank you and good night” without addressing any expectations he was set to resign.
He is now expected to be impeached.
Mugabe’s grip on power was broken last week when the military took over, angered at his wife Grace’s emergence as the leading candidate to succeed the 93-year-old president.
At a ruling ZANU-PF party meeting earlier in the day, delegates cheered wildly as a party official announced that Mugabe had been ousted as party chief.
He was replaced by former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who had been Grace Mugabe’s chief rival.
With the generals responsible for the military takeover seated next to him, Mugabe gave a lengthy speech acknowledging some problems with the economy and the Zanu-PF party but made no mention of leaving office.
The military takeover “did not amount to a threat to our well-cherished constitutional order, nor was it a challenge to my authority as head of state and government, not even as commander in chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces,” he said.
He added that the military had been polite and respectful since Wednesday’s events.
Earlier, Mugabe was sacked as party leader and given an ultimatum of noon on Monday, local time, to resign or face impeachment proceedings in parliament. When it was announced that he would make a live televised address, some media reported it was to step aside.
“The congress is due in a few weeks from now. I will preside over its processes which must not be prepossesed by any acts calculated to undermine it or to compromise the outcomes in the eyes of the public,” Mugabe said of the party meet scheduled for December.
In a stunning reversal of allegiances, the party added that it would impeach Mugabe if he did not resign by Monday, Emmerson Mnangagwa would be its candidate in 2018 elections, and that Grace was expelled from the ZANU-PF ranks.
“(Mugabe’s) wife and close associates have taken advantage of his frail condition to usurp power and loot state resources,” party official Obert Mpofu told the ZANU-PF meeting.
Army chief Constantino Chiwenga held further talks with Mugabe on Sunday at State House, the president’s official residence.
Official photographs of the meeting showed one officer saluting the president, who stood behind his desk, and several senior officers sitting in a formal room with white sofas and a bright red carpet.
No details of the meeting were released.
Speaking before the meeting, war veterans’ leader Chris Mutsvangwa said Mugabe was running out of time to negotiate his departure and should leave the country while he could.
“He’s trying to bargain for a dignified exit,” he said.
Mutsvangwa followed up with threat to call for street protests if Mugabe refused to go, telling reporters: “We will bring back the crowds and they will do their business.”
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 free fall.
Over the weekend, 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.
His 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.
Men, women and children ran alongside the armoured cars and troops who stepped in this week to oust the man who has ruled since independence from Britain in 1980.
Under house arrest in his lavish “Blue Roof” compound, Mugabe has refused to stand down even as he has watched his support from party, security services and people evaporate in less than three days.
His nephew, Patrick Zhuwao, told Reuters Mugabe and his wife were “ready to die for what is correct” rather than step down in order to legitimatise what he described as a coup.
But on Harare’s streets, few seemed to care about the legal niceties as they heralded a “second liberation” for the former British colony and spoke of their dreams for political and economic change after two decades of deepening repression and hardship.
“These are tears of joy,” said Frank Mutsindikwa, 34, holding aloft the Zimbabwean flag. “I’ve been waiting all my life for this day. Free at last. We are free at last.”
The huge crowds in Harare have given a quasi-democratic veneer to the army’s intervention, backing its assertion that it is merely effecting a constitutional transfer of power, rather than a plain coup, which would entail a diplomatic backlash.
Despite the euphoria, some Mugabe opponents are uneasy about the prominent role played by the military, and fear Zimbabwe might be swapping one army-backed autocrat with another, rather than allowing the people to choose their next leader.
“The real danger of the current situation is that having got their new preferred candidate into State House, the military will want to keep him or her there, no matter what the electorate wills,” former education minister David Coltart said.
The United States, a long-time Mugabe critic, said it was looking forward to a new era in Zimbabwe, while President Ian Khama of neighbouring Botswana said Mugabe had no diplomatic support in the region and should resign at once.
WHO IS ‘THE CROCODILE’?
Emmerson Mnangagwa, elected as the new leader of Zimbabwe’s ruling political party and positioned to take over as the country’s leader, has engineered a remarkable comeback using skills he no doubt learned from his longtime mentor, President Robert Mugabe.
Mnangagwa served for decades as Mugabe’s enforcer — a role that gave him a reputation for being astute, ruthless and effective at manipulating the levers of power.
A leading government figure since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, he became vice president in 2014 and is so widely known as the “Crocodile” that his supporters are called Team Lacoste for the brand’s crocodile logo.
The 75-year-old “is smart and skillful, but will he be a panacea for Zimbabwe’s problems? Will he bring good governance and economic management? We’ll have to watch this space,” said Piers Pigou, southern Africa expert for the International Crisis Group.
Mugabe unwittingly set in motion the events that led to his own downfall, firing his vice president on November 6. Mnangagwa fled the country to avoid arrest. He has not been seen in public but is believed to be back in Zimbabwe.
Mnangagwa joined the fight against white minority rule in Rhodesia while still a teen in the 1960s. As one of the earliest guerrilla fighters against Ian Smith’s Rhodesian regime, he was captured, tortured and convicted of blowing up a locomotive in 1965.
Sentenced to death by hanging, he was found to be under 21, and his punishment was commuted to 10 years in prison. He was jailed with other prominent nationalists including Mugabe.
While imprisoned, Mnangagwa studied through a correspondence school. After his release in 1975, he went to Zambia, where he completed a law degree. Soon he went to newly independent Marxist Mozambique, where he became Mugabe’s assistant and bodyguard.
When Zimbabwe achieved independence in 1980, Mnangagwa was appointed minister of security. He directed the merger of the Rhodesian army with Mugabe’s guerrilla forces and the forces of rival nationalist leader Joshua Nkomo. Ever since, he has kept close ties with the military and security forces.
In 1983, Mugabe launched a brutal campaign against Nkomo’s supporters that became known as the Matabeleland massacres.
He is reputed to have amassed a considerable fortune and was named in a United Nations investigation into exploitation of mineral resources in Congo and has been active in making Harare a significant diamond trading centre.
In recent years, Mnangagwa has promoted himself as an experienced leader who will bring stability to Zimbabwe. But his promises to return Zimbabwe to democracy and prosperity are viewed with skepticism by many experts.
“Despite his claims to be a business-friendly reformer, Zimbabweans know Mnangagwa is the architect of the Matabeland massacres and that he abetted Mugabe’s looting of the country,” says Todd Moss, Africa expert for the Centre for Global Development.
“Mnangagwa is part of its sad past, not its future.”