Zimbabwe crisis: Zanu-PF to discuss impeachment as Mugabe ignores deadline to quit

. Mugabe 

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Members of Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party are preparing to meet to discuss the possible impeachment of President Robert Mugabe, after a deadline for his resignation came and went on Monday.

The deadline was set by Mr Mugabe’s own party, Zanu-PF.

The embattled leader surprised Zimbabweans on Sunday, declaring on TV that he planned to remain as president.

Zanu-PF says it backs impeachment, and proceedings could begin as soon as Tuesday when parliament meets.

Mr Mugabe’s grip on power has weakened considerably since the country’s army intervened on Wednesday in a row over who should succeed him.

The crisis began two weeks ago when the 93-year-old leader 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 then seen huge street rallies demanding his immediate resignation.

The protests have been backed by the influential War veterans – who fought in the conflict that led to independence from Britain in 1980.

The group’s leader, Chris Mutsvangwa, on Monday called for more demonstrations against the president’s attempt to cling on to power.

“We want to see his back now,” Mr Mutsvangwa said. “Mugabe, your rule is over. The emperor has no clothes. Thank you very much.”

During the 20-minute address to Nation on Sunday, the president, who was flanked by generals, made no mention of the pressure from his party and the public to quit.

Instead, he declared that the military had done nothing wrong by seizing power and placing him under house arrest.

“Whatever the pros and cons of how they [the army] went about their operation, I, as commander-in-chief, do acknowledge their concerns,” he said, in reference to the army’s move last week to take over the state broadcaster in the capital Harare.

He also said “the [Zanu-PF] party congress is due in a few weeks and I will preside over its processes”.

Before Mr Mugabe’s speech, Mr Mnangagwa was named as Zanu-PF’s new leader and candidate for the 2018 general elections, while Mr Mugabe’s wife was expelled.

After Mr Mugabe’s speech, Zanu-PF chief whip Lovemore Matuke was quoted as saying that the resignation ultimatum was unchanged.

He added that impeachment proceedings could be launched on Tuesday in parliament. This would require a two-thirds majority in both chambers.

The opposition MDC-T party has tried unsuccessfully to impeach Mr Mugabe in the past, but this time the ruling party – which has an overwhelming majority in both houses – is likely to go against him.

However, the impeachment process could take weeks.

The BBC’s Africa Editor, Fergal Keane, said his understanding of the situation was that Mr Mugabe had agreed to resign, but then changed his mind.

Our correspondent says the generals have no intention of forcing Mr Mugabe out by the barrel of a gun, and are happy to let the Zanu-PF carry out its procedures, working through impeachment if necessary.

It is unclear how Robert Mugabe can preside over Zanu-PF’s congress next month, following his dismissal as party leader.

Media captionWho is the “crocodile” and is he behind the military takeover in Zimbabwe?

Party positions are officially decided at the congress and Mr Mnangagwa may take over leading the country then.

Mr Mnangagwa, a former state security chief, is nicknamed “the crocodile” for his perceived shrewdness. He fled Zimbabwe after his sacking a fortnight ago, but has since reportedly returned.

Meanwhile, the War Veterans Association, which used to back Mr Mugabe, now says it is time for him to step down.

“Thirty-seven years, you have had your time, you are toast now politically,” association head Chris Mutsvangwa told the BBC.

“Please give the country a chance, let it move to the next page.”

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said he was “baffled” by the president’s address.

“He’s playing a game. He has let the whole nation down,” he told Reuters news agency.

Mr Mugabe has led the country since it gained independence from Britain in 1980.

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