Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe faced impeachment today as a deadline for him to resign passed.
Officials said they would meet in the capital Harare to discuss bringing formal charges against the 93-year-old leader, who has held power for nearly 40 years. MPs would then be asked to vote tomorrow in favour of removing him from office.
Reports today suggested that a resignation letter had been drafted and Mr Mugabe had agreed to the terms of his departure. However a deadline set by his once loyal Zanu-PF party to leave by midday local time (10am GMT) was not met. Chris Mutsvangwa, chairman of the influential Zimbabwe War Veterans Association, said today: “Your time is up. Mugabe go now.”
Zanu-PF chief whip Lovemore Matuke said they would continue with impeachment plans even though they had been braced for his resignation last night. He said: “I don’t see us failing to proceed with the impeachment.” Zanu-PF need a two-thirds majority in parliament to oust Mr Mugabe, which is understood to be achievable as other political parties pull together to remove the unpopular leader.
Mr Mugabe surprised the nation by saying nothing about quitting in a TV speech late last night. In the rambling 30-minute address he acknowledged a “whole range of concerns” among Zimbabweans but stopped short of resigning. He was flanked by the military and was given help to find his place on pages of notes.
Mr Mugabe said he would host a special Zanu-PF Congress scheduled for next month — despite having been dismissed as party leader yesterday.
The crisis began two weeks ago when he sacked his deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa, angering army commanders who saw it as an attempt to position his wife Grace as next president.
Zimbabwe has since seen huge street rallies demanding his immediate resignation.
Marshall Gore, chief executive of Zanu-PF UK, today told Sky News that Mr Mugabe was likely to resign before being impeached — a process which he said could involve laborious legal discussions. “What we want is the president to listen to the call of the people. We are looking for a peaceful process that will lead the president gracefully resting and going into retirement.”
Mr Mugabe has been in power since Zimbabwe’s achieved official independence in 1980. Since the late Nineties, the country has lurched through economic and political crises as the former revolutionary leader has refused to relinquish power.
This morning CNN reported that Mr Mugabe had agreed to terms for his exit and that a resignation letter had been drafted, citing a well-informed but unnamed source.
British minister for Africa, Rory Stewart, said an impeachment process would require Zanu-PF to work with the opposition, which could provide an opportunity for constitutional reforms.
“This impeachment process against Mugabe requires a two-thirds vote in Parliament, and Zanu PF don’t have two thirds of the Parliament so they are going to have to reach out to the opposition to get that impeachment through.
“That is a small opportunity for the opposition to insist on government reform, insist that the next elections are held, and that they are held in a fairer way.”
He said some of the constitutional reforms could include taking a million “ghost voters” off the electoral roll.
If the international community come together, he suggested this could be a “moment for change” in Zimbabwe.