It should take Zimbabwe’s parliament two days to impeach President Robert Mugabe, who is resisting calls to step down, an official from the country’s ruling party has said.
The party’s deputy secretary for legal affairs Paul Mangwana made the claim to reporters as ruling party politicians gathered. He said they will move a motion for impeachment on Tuesday and set up a committee and on Wednesday it will report back and “we vote him out”.
Mr Mangwana said the main charge against the 93-year-old Mr Mugabe is “allowing his wife to usurp government powers” and that “he is too old and cannot even walk without help”. He said the ruling party needs the backing of the MDC opposition group to have enough votes in parliament but “they are supporting us”.
Mr Mugabe earlier on Monday ignored a midday deadline set by the ruling party to step down or face impeachment proceedings. “Arrogant Mugabe disregards Zanu PF,” one newspaper headline said.
Opposition activists and the influential liberation war veterans’ association announced more demonstrations to pressure Mr Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state, to step down after 37 years in power. “Your time is up,” veterans’ association leader Chris Mutsvangwa said at a press conference.
“You should have the dignity and decency to spare the country of further turmoil by simply announcing your departure immediately.” He also suggested that the military, even though it put Mr Mugabe under house arrest days ago, was still beholden to him and compelled to protect him because he is officially their “commander in chief”.
Zimbabweans were astonished that Mr Mugabe, flanked by the military in his national address on Sunday night, remained defiant. The war veterans’ association will go to court to argue that Mr Mugabe is “derelict of his executive duty”, Mr Mutsvangwa said.
Some ruling party members said an impeachment process likely would not lead to Mr Mugabe’s immediate resignation and could take days to complete. Mr Mugabe was stripped of his party leadership on Sunday by the central committee of the ruling Zanu-PF but said in his speech he would preside over a party congress next month.
The congress is expected to ratify his firing as party chief, the expulsion of the unpopular first lady and the naming of Mr Mugabe’s recently fired deputy to succeed him.
Amid the confusion, some people in the capital, Harare, are now more cautious about talking to reporters.
That contrasts with the jubilation and open condemnation of Mr Mugabe over the weekend, when the bulk of Harare’s population of roughly 1.6 million appeared to be in the streets, dancing and taking selfies with soldiers in an event backed by the military.
Mr Mugabe in his speech acknowledged “a whole range of concerns” of Zimbabweans about the chaotic state of the government and its collapsed economy, but he stopped short of what many in the southern African nation were hoping for, a statement that he was stepping down.
The once-formidable Mr Mugabe is now a virtually powerless figure, making his continued incumbency all the more unusual and extending Zimbabwe’s political limbo. He is largely confined to his private home by the military.
Yet the president sought to project authority in his speech, which he delivered after shaking hands with security force commanders.The army commander himself, whose threat to “step in” last week led to Mr Mugabe’s house arrest, leaned over a couple of times to help the president find his place on the page he was reading.
Mr Mugabe has discussed his possible resignation on two occasions with military commanders after they effectively took over the country on Tuesday. The commanders were troubled by his firing of his long-serving deputy and the positioning of unpopular first lady Grace Mugabe to succeed him.
“I, as the president of Zimbabwe, as their commander in chief, do acknowledge the issues they have drawn my attention to, and do believe that these were raised in the spirit of honesty and out of deep and patriotic concern for the stability of our nation and for the welfare of our people,” Mr Mugabe said.
The deputy whom Mr Mugabe fired, former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, is positioned to become Zimbabwe’s next leader after the party committee made him its nominee to take over from Mr Mugabe, who has ruled since independence from white minority rule in 1980.
The military appears to favour a voluntary resignation to maintain a veneer of legality in the political transition. Mr Mugabe, in turn, is likely using whatever leverage he has left to try to preserve his legacy or even protect himself and his family from possible prosecution.