HARARE (AFP, REUTERS) - Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party will launch the parliamentary process on Tuesday (Nov 21) for impeaching President Robert Mugabe, a government lawmaker told AFP.
The decision on Monday came after Mugabe missed a deadline to resign given to him by his party over the weekend.
Once a simple majority of parliamentarians vote for impeachment, an investigative committee is formed by lawmakers, who report back to both houses of Parliament. Each house must then vote by a two-thirds majority for him to be stripped of office.
“We are expecting the motion to be over (on Tuesday),” said Zanu-PF lawmaker Paul Mangwana, referring to the initial procedure to commence impeachment proceedings. He added that Zanu-PF had approached the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party to seek their cooperation to pass the necessary parliamentary votes.
Mugabe has called for a weekly meeting of his Cabinet on Tuesday at the State House, according to a notice from his chief secretary on Monday.
In a televised address late on Sunday, the 93-year-old veteran leader defied expectations he would quit, pitching the country into a second week of political crisis.
Impeachment could see Mugabe kick 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 across the continent as an anti-colonial hero.
Mugabe’s demise, now almost inevitable, is likely to send shockwaves across Africa, where a number of entrenched strongmen from Uganda’s Yoweri Museveni to Democratic Republic of Congo’s Joseph Kabila are facing mounting pressure to step aside.
Mugabe was once admired, even in the West, as the “Thinking Man’s Guerrilla”, a world away from his image in his latter years as the stereotypical African dictator proudly declaring he held a “degree in violence”.
As the economy crumbled and opposition to his rule grew in the late 1990s, Mugabe tightened his grip around the southern African country, seizing white-owned farms, unleashing security forces to crush dissent and speaking of ruling until he was 100.
Zanu-PF’s action follows a weekend of high drama in Harare, culminating in reports that Mugabe had agreed on Sunday to stand down – only for him to dash the hopes of millions of his countrymen in a bizarre and rambling national address.
Flanked by the generals who sent in tanks and troops last week to seize the state broadcaster, 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.
“I am baffled. It’s not just me, it’s the whole nation,” shocked opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai told Reuters. “He’s playing a game.”
Two senior government sources told Reuters that Mugabe had agreed on Sunday to step aside and CNN said on Monday his resignation letter had been drawn up, with terms that included immunity for him and his hot-headed and unpopular 52-year-old wife Grace.
It was her tilt at power via the purging of former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa this month that forced the army to send in the troops.
Two other political sources told Reuters on Monday that Mugabe had indeed agreed to resign but Zanu-PF did not want him to quit in front of the military, an act that would have made its mid-week intervention look like a coup.
“It would have looked extremely bad if he had resigned in front of those generals. It would have created a huge amount of mess,” one senior source within Zanu-PF said.
Another political source said the speech was meant to“sanitise” the military’s action, which has paved the way for Mnangagwa, a former security chief known as The Crocodile, to take over.
Moments after his address, war veterans’ leader Chris Mutsvangwa, who has spearheaded an 18 month campaign to unseat Zimbabwe’s only leader, called for protests suggesting a potential popular uprising if Mugabe refused to go.
On Saturday, hundreds of thousands took to the streets of Harare to celebrate Mugabe’s expected downfall and hail a new era for their country, whose economy has imploded under the weight of economic mismangement, including 500 billion per cent hyperinflation in 2008.
An estimated three million Zimbabweans emigrated to neighbouring South Africa in search of a better life.
The huge crowds in Harare have given a quasi-democratic veneer to the army’s intervention, backing its assertion that it was merely effecting a constitutional transfer of power, rather than an old-style coup, which would risk a diplomatic backlash.
Behind the euphoria, some Zimbabweans have misgiving, not least because of the prominent role played by the military in removing Mugabe.
“The real danger of the current situation is that, having got their new preferred candidate into State House, the military will want to keep him or her there, no matter what the electorate wills,” former education minister David Coltart said.
Other’s worry about Mnangagwa’s past, particularly as state security chief in the early 1980s, when an estimated 20,000 people were killed in the so-called Gukurahundi crackdown by the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade in Matabeleland.
He has denied any wrong-doing but critics say Zimbabwe risks swapping one army-backed autocrat for another.
“The deep state that engineered this change of leadership will remain, thwarting any real democratic reform,” said Miles Tendi, a Zimbabwean academic at Oxford University.