Zimbabwe's ousted VP Mnangagwa urges Mugabe to quit as impeachment set to begin

Zimbabwe's ousted vice president has called on Robert Mugabe to quit immediately - paving the way for him to take over.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose firing kicked off the country's political crisis, said in a statement on Tuesday that he is not in Zimbabwe and will not return until he is "satisfied of my personal security".

Mr Mnangagwa, known as "the crocodile", added that Mr Mugabe must "heed the call of the people to resign" or face "humiliation".

"The people of Zimbabwe have spoken with one voice," he said.

"It is my appeal to President Mugabe that he should take heed of this clarion call and resign forthwith so that the country can move forward and preserve his legacy."

The speaker of Zimbabwe's parliament confirmed on Tuesday that presiding officers had received a notice to remove the 93-year-old president - the first step towards impeachment.

The motion was moved by war veterans leader Chris Mutsvangwa and it was seconded by opposition MP James Maridadi.

The ruling Zanu-PF party has backed Mr Mnangagwa to replace Mr Mugabe.

Zimbabwe's leader stunned his country on Sunday when he failed to announce that he was stepping down.

An ultimatum from Zanu-PF to resign by midday on Monday or face impeachment also came and went with no word from Mr Mugabe.

The party will now press ahead with impeachment by tabling a motion, and it believes it can all be done and dusted in a couple of days - contrary to the view of some experts.

"We want to get rid of this animal called Mugabe. We have the numbers, the opposition is also going to support us," said Zanu-PF MP Vongai Mupereri.

"We are going to impeach - the man has to go," MP MacKenzie Ncube told the AFP news agency.

Zimbabwe's military chief Constantino Chiwenga said on Monday evening that a road map to hand over power had been agreed with Mr Mugabe.

Rubbing the noses of his opponents and most of his citizens, Mr Mugabe called a cabinet meeting on Tuesday at his official residence - but Zanu-PF told ministers not to attend.

Mr Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist since 1980 and the end of British colonialism, but events last week have brought him to the brink.

The vice president's sacking put Mugabe's unpopular wife, Grace, in prime position to succeed him.

The army promptly seized power and put the President under house arrest - but insisted it had not staged a coup.

Despite the impeachment machinery getting moving on Tuesday, lawyers have told Sky News it could take months to prise him from power.

Tarisai Mutangi, a constitutional lawyer, said: "He knows the law is on his side, that the constitution is on his side and that the kingpins of this process want to do it constitutionally, and that means it's going to take quite some time."

Under the Zimbabwean constitution, the president can be impeached for four things:

:: Serious misconduct
:: Failure to obey, uphold or defend this constitution
:: Wilful violation of this Constitution
:: Inability to perform the functions of the office because of physical or mental incapacity