Zimbabwean lawmakers are set to begin impeachment proceedings against President Robert Mugabe on Monday after he missed a ruling-party deadline to end his 37-year reign.
Mugabe, 93, was widely expected to announce that he was stepping down in a televised address late on Sunday to enable Emmerson Mnangagwa, whom he fired as vice president earlier this month, to take over. Mugabe instead delivered a rambling and largely incoherent speech, in which he pledged to preside over a governing-party congress that’s due to take place in December.
Three senior party officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said Mugabe deviated from an agreed-upon text and he’ll now be forced from office by the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, which had told him to quit by midday on Monday. An impeachment motion may be filed as early as Tuesday, when parliament is due to resume sitting. All the party’s lawmakers were summoned to a special caucus meeting at its headquarters in Harare, the capital, Monday, according to two legislators who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“Yesterday, the party recalled him, so today they’ll start impeachment proceedings against him,” Chris Mutsvangwa, the head of the Zimbabwe War Veterans Association, which has been at the forefront of the campaign for Mugabe’s removal, told reporters in Harare on Monday. “He swapped the agreement and he proceeds to pretend as if everything is normal.”
The ruling party dumped Mugabe as its leader on Sunday, four days after the military placed him under house arrest and detained several of his closest allies — a move triggered by his dismissal of Mnangagwa, 75. The former vice president will be reinstated, take over as interim leader and be Zanu-PF’s presidential candidate in elections next year. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Harare and Bulawayo, the second-largest city, on Saturday to celebrate Mugabe’s imminent ouster.
The political crisis comes as the economy is in free-fall. An estimated 95 percent of the workforce is unemployed, public infrastructure is crumbling and about 3 million Zimbabweans have gone into exile.
“We are saying Mugabe go, go now,” Mutsvangwa said Monday. “If he can’t, we will bring the people of Zimbabwe into the streets.”
Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change, said Mugabe’s refusal to opt for a dignified exit had dimmed Zimbabweans’ hopes of a speedy resolution to the political crisis, and called urgent steps to be taken to restore political stability.
“We reiterate our call for an internationally supervised process for the forthcoming elections, starting with the current voter registration exercise and ultimately the election itself,” he said in an emailed statement.
Eldred Masunugure, a professor of political science at the University of Zimbabwe, said it’s only a matter of time before Mugabe goes.
“I don’t think this will drag on,” he said by phone. “This is the end game. He doesn’t have any leverage, he has exhausted all his usable cards. All the pillars of power have crumbled. If he has political prudence he will have to do the right thing, which is to go.”