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Mugabe's Ruling Party Meeting to Discuss His Ouster

  • VOA Zimbabwe Service

Protesters calling for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to step down take to the streets in Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 18, 2017.

Leaders of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s own ZANU-PF party have begun meeting Sunday and are widely expected to dismiss the long-time ruler.

Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who Mugabe fired last week, is expected to be reinstated at the meeting, and Mugabe’s wife Grace is expected to be removed from her position as leader of the ZANU-PF Women’s League and possibly expelled from the party.

A protester holds a poster showing support for ousted Zimbabwean Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, in Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 18, 2017.
A protester holds a poster showing support for ousted Zimbabwean Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, in Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 18, 2017.

Impeachment is another possibility, the opposition’s parliamentary chief whip Innocent Gonese told the Associated Press. The MDC-T leader said MDC-T and ZANU-PF had been in discussions to act jointly.

“If Mugabe is not gone by Tuesday, then as sure as the sun rises from the east, impeachment process will kick in,” Gonese said.

Mugabe’s nephew, Patrick Zhuwao, told Reuters Saturday his uncle and his uncle’s wife were “ready to die for what is correct.” Speaking from an undisclosed location in South Africa, Zhuwao said Mugabe had no plans to resign in order to validate what he described as a coup.

Zhuwao said his 93-year-old uncle’s health was good, although he has gotten little sleep since the military seized control Wednesday.

A crowd of thousands of protesters demanding President Robert Mugabe stands down gather behind an army cordon on the road leading to State House in Harare, Zimbabwe Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017.
A crowd of thousands of protesters demanding President Robert Mugabe stands down gather behind an army cordon on the road leading to State House in Harare, Zimbabwe Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017.

On Saturday, thousands of exuberant Zimbabwean demonstrators flooded the streets of Harare, some of whom marched toward the official residence of Mugabe amid nationwide protests calling for his resignation.

The protesters — some carrying signs that said, “Mugabe must go!” and “Not coup but cool” — came within 200 meters of the gates to the complex and staged a sit-down protest after being halted by national troops.

A man carries a poster calling for Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe to step down as Zimbabweans take to the streets in Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 18, 2017.
A man carries a poster calling for Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe to step down as Zimbabweans take to the streets in Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 18, 2017.

The State House is where Mugabe is under official house arrest and where negotiations for Mugabe’s departure have taken place.

“This is not fair. Why are soldiers preventing us to march to the State House,” said 26-year-old Rutendo Maisiri. “It is wrong. We will stay put.”

The military has stopped such demonstrations in the capital in the past, but is now supporting the protests, directing demonstrators to the Zimbabwe Grounds where speeches are being made by activists, politicians and former freedom fighters calling for the president to resign.

The Zimbabwe Grounds is a symbolic location. It is where Zimbabweans welcomed Mugabe’s return from exile in 1980 after the liberation war from white minority rule.

Demands intensify

Members of opposition groups are expressing frustration with the pace of negotiations over Mugabe’s political future.

Christopher Mutsvangwa, chairperson of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association, told journalists that the protests are designed to push the president out of office.

Many Zimbabweans in Harare are calling for Mugabe to go, Nov. 18, 2017. (K. Zvinavashe/VOA)
Many Zimbabweans in Harare are calling for Mugabe to go, Nov. 18, 2017. (K. Zvinavashe/VOA)

Demonstrations in other cities around the country were also calling for an end to Mugabe's 37-year rule.

Mugabe is reported to be resisting demands to step down from the army, members of his ZANU-PF party and political activists.

The Zimbabwe Defense Forces seized key state institutions Wednesday, confined Mugabe to house arrest and clamped down on those they termed thieves surrounding the president, including professor Jonathan Moyo, Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo, Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, ZANU-PF Youth League Secretary Kudzanayi Chipanga.

The detainees, who were in army barracks, are said to be members of a faction of the ruling party that were seeking to elevate first lady Grace Mugabe to the post of vice president. Robert Mugabe fired Mnangagwa from the position on November 5.

Mugabe made a public appearance Friday, his first since the military took over state institutions and opened talks aimed at getting the aged leader to resign.

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe leaves after presiding over a student graduation ceremony at Zimbabwe Open University on the outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 17, 2017.
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe leaves after presiding over a student graduation ceremony at Zimbabwe Open University on the outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 17, 2017.

Mugabe, wearing a blue and yellow academic gown, presided over a university graduation ceremony for more than 1,000 students in Harare. The president appeared to fall asleep at times and said nothing about the ongoing political uncertainty.

Demands intensify

Members of opposition groups are expressing frustration with the pace of negotiations over Mugabe’s political future.

Christopher Mutsvangwa, chairperson of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association, told journalists that Saturday's protests were designed to push the president out of office.

Protesters gather calling for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to step down, in Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 18, 2017.
Protesters gather calling for Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to step down, in Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 18, 2017.

Former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who leads the Movement for Democratic Change party, joined the calls for Mugabe to resign.

“Mr. Robert Mugabe must resign, step down immediately in line with the national sentiment and expectation, taking full regard of his legacy and contribution to Zimbabwe, pre and post Zimbabwe,” said Tsvangirai, who returned to the country last week from South Africa, where he is being treated for cancer.

Mugabe hanging on

There has been no indication Mugabe will voluntarily give up power. Nick Mangwana, who is the Britain-based representative of ZANU-PF, told VOA that, “President Mugabe remains President Mugabe as of now.”

Mugabe is the only leader the nation has known since Zimbabwe won independence in 1980, and has turned back many previous challenges to his rule, often using the army, police and physical violence from supporters to intimidate opponents.

His hold appeared strong even as Zimbabwe’s economy, which has struggled for years, suffered a new downturn over the past 12 months. Last December, the ruling ZANU-PF party nominated him as its presidential candidate for the 2018 elections.

The turning point was the firing of Mnangagwa, 75, a liberation war hero who maintains strong support among veterans.

Wayne Lee, Fern Robinson, Gibbs Dube, Dan Joseph and Anita Powell contributed to this report.

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