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Zimbabwe's Mugabe Skirts Resignation

  • VOA News

Zimbabweans watch a televised address to the nation by President Robert Mugabe at a bar in downtown Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 19, 2017.

In a much awaited address to the nation, Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe did not resign Sunday, despite calls from his own party to do so.

"We must learn to forgive, and to resolve contradictions in comradely spirit," Mugabe said in a televised address, noting he acknowledges concerns brought up by the ruling ZANU-PF party, which has given Mugabe until noon Monday to resign or face impeachment.

Mugabe said the events of this week in Zimbabwe are not a threat to the constitution or to his authority as head of state and commander in chief.

WATCH: Mugabe Speech Excerpt

But hours before his speech, ZANU-PF installed former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, whom Mugabe dismissed two weeks earlier, as the party's new chief.

Party leaders have also expelled Mugabe's wife, Grace, leader of the ZANU-PF Women's League, from membership in the ruling party.

Zimbabwe's military intervened last week, seizing institutions in apparent opposition of Mugabe naming his unpopular wife as his successor, a move many feared would follow Mugabe's firing of Mnangagwa.

FILE - An armed soldier patrols a street in Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 15, 2017, atop a military vehicle.
FILE - An armed soldier patrols a street in Harare, Zimbabwe, Nov. 15, 2017, atop a military vehicle.


According to Zimbabwe newspaper The Herald, Mugabe met Sunday with military leaders.

Mugabe is expected to make an announcement in the coming hours, as a state television van was seen outside his house, Reuters reported.

Southern African leaders will be discussing the ongoing political crisis in Zimbabwe at a meeting of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) in Luanda, Angola on Tuesday.

Saturday protests

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 the his resignation.

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.

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.

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 were 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.

FILE - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, left, and his wife Grace chant the party's slogan during a solidarity rally in Harare, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017.
FILE - Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe, left, and his wife Grace chant the party's slogan during a solidarity rally in Harare, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2017.

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.

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.

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