HARARE • Zimbabwean lawmakers from the ruling Zanu-PF party planned to initiate impeachment proceedings against President Robert Mugabe at a meeting yesterday, according to a Member of Parliament, after the 93-year-old defied a noon (6pm Singapore time) deadline to resign and bring the curtain down on nearly four decades in power.
Impeachment could see Mr Mugabe kicked out by a vote in Parliament in under a day, and would represent an ignominious end to the career of the "Grand Old Man" of African politics who was once lauded as an anti-colonial hero.
In the draft motion for Mr Mugabe's impeachment, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) party accused him of being a "source of instability", flouting the rule of law and presiding over an "unprecedented economic tailspin" in the past 15 years.
It also said he had abrogated his constitutional mandate to his hot-headed and unpopular 52-year-old wife Grace, whose tilt at power triggered the backlash from the army that saw it put tanks on the streets of the capital Harare last week.
But a key opposition party yesterday suggested it wanted Mr Mugabe to resign instead. In a statement, the Movement for Democratic Change said resignation would be "one of several key landmarks on our road map to the establishment of a democratic dispensation".
Although Mr Mugabe's Zanu-PF has the required two-thirds membership to remove Mr Mugabe, participation by the opposition could give a boost to the process.
Yesterday, Zimbabwe's state broadcaster ZBC was put on standby for an expected address by the military, workers there said.
On Sunday night, Mr Mugabe was widely expected to announce that he was stepping down in a televised address, to enable Mr Emmerson Mnangagwa, who he had fired as vice-president earlier this month, to take over. Mr Mugabe instead delivered a rambling and largely incoherent speech, in which he pledged to preside over a ruling party congress due to take place next month.
Flanked by the generals who sent in troops last week to seize the state broadcaster, Mr Mugabe spoke of the need for national unity and farming reform, but made no mention of his fate, leaving the nation of 16 million people dumbstruck.
Three senior party officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Mr Mugabe deviated from an agreed-upon-text and he will now be forced from office by the ruling .
"Yesterday, the party recalled him, so today they will start impeachment proceedings against him," Mr Chris Mutsvangwa, head of the Zimbabwe War Veterans Association, which has been at the forefront of the campaign for Mr Mugabe's removal, said yesterday. "He swopped the agreement, and he proceeds to pretend as if everything is normal."
Shocked opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said: "I am baffled. It is not just me, it is the whole nation. He is playing a game."
Mr Mugabe also called for a weekly meeting of his Cabinet at State House yesterday, according to a notice from his chief secretary.
On paper, the process of impeachment is relatively long-winded, involving a joint sitting of the Senate and National Assembly, then a nine-member committee of senators, then a joint sitting to confirm his dismissal with a two-thirds majority.
However, constitutional experts said Zanu-PF has 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 Mr John Makamure, executive director of the Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust, a non-governmental organisation that works with the Parliament in Harare.
"We are saying Mugabe go, go now," Mr Mutsvangwa said. "If he can't, we will bring the people of Zimbabwe into the streets."
The crisis comes at a time when an estimated 95 per cent of the workforce is unemployed, public infrastructure is crumbling and about three million Zimbabweans have gone into exile.
REUTERS, WASHINGTON POST, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE