Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe baffled his country and the world last night when, instead of publicly announcing his resignation, he reaffirmed his intention to stay on as the head of state in Zimbabwe, and admonished members of his ruling ZANU PF party for their “arbitrary decision making” and “victimization.”
Mugabe’s defiance immediately spurred conspiracy theories, including one where military commanders who flanked Mugabe during his speech smuggled him an alternate version following the review of his initial draft.
Rumors circulated that some ZANU PF lawmakers had fled the country to avoid participating in an impeachment vote, though they were later debunked, according to local media reports. Still, the military’s deadline for Mugabe’s resignation – initially set at noon local time on Monday – has come and gone, and Mugabe remains the nominal leader of Zimbabwe, even if he’s still under house arrest, according to BBC.
However, ZANU PF appears to be reaching the end of its patience with its long-time leader. In a media briefing, party member Paul Mangawana said Zimbabwe’s lawmakers will move to formally impeach Mugabe tomorrow, and that he could be formally removed from office as soon as Wednesday.
Discussions about the impeachment proceedings began Monday, Reuters added.
Reuters added that impeachment would represent an ignominious end to the career of the “Grand Old Man” of African politics, who was once lauded across the continent as an anti-colonial hero. Chief whip Lovemore Matuke told Reuters ZANU-PF members of parliament would meet at 1230 GMT to start mapping out Mugabe’s impeachment.
In the draft motion, the party accused Mugabe of being a “source of instability”, flouting the rule of law and presiding over an “unprecedented economic tailspin” in the last 15 years.
It also said he had abrogated his constitutional mandate by trying to position his unpopular wife, Grace, as his successor.
While the process of impeaching Mugabe looks complex on paper and involves a joint sitting of the Senate and National Assembly, then a nine-member committee of senators, then another joint sitting to confirm his dismissal with a two-thirds majority. However, constitutional experts said ZANU-PF had the numbers and could push it through in as little as 24 hours.
“They can fast-track it. It can be done in a matter of a day,” said John Makamure, executive director of the Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust, an NGO that works with the parliament in Harare.
A statement released Monday evening (local time) by Gen Chiwanga reaffirmed the military’s commitment to ensuring a peaceful transition of power.
A statement just released tonight by Gen. Chiwenga pic.twitter.com/UeVM9kh5U4— Zim Media Review (@ZimMediaReview) November 20, 2017
One Zimbabwe lawmaker said there will be another caucus meeting for ZANU PF members beginning at 10 am local time Tuesday. It also noted that the President has called for a cabinet meeting. The MDCT, another party, will also be in caucus, while the president meets with his cabinet.
Tomorrow there will be another caucus meeting for ZANU PF at 10am, while at the same time the President has called for a cabinet meeting. The MDCT will be in caucus and I assure Zimbabwe that all MPs will put Zimbabwe First— Hon. Temba P. Mliswa (@TembaMliswa) November 20, 2017
However, ZANU PF's chief whip said that if Mugabe calls a cabinet meeting, no ministers will attend.
President Robert Gabriel Mugabe & Vice President Grace Mugabe arrived at Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport, awaiting flight on Robert Gabriel Mugabe Airways after an afternoon capping graduands at Robert Gabriel Mugabe University situated along Robert Gabriel Mugabe Way— Lance Guma (@LanceGuma) November 9, 2017
Despite the political upheaval – and the marches that occurred over the weekend – local media reported that people were going on with their lives, on their way to work, children were in class, vendors were on the streets and taxis were meandering through the streets of Harare.
However, while the demonstrations were peaceful, tanks were strategically positioned at Mugabe's office and other key government institutions, a clear indication that the standoff is far from over.