Thursday 13 December 2018

Mugabe agrees to stand down, drafts resignation letter - reports

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, right, shakes hands with Army General Constantino Chiwenga before delivering his speech at State House in Harare last night. Photo: AP
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, right, shakes hands with Army General Constantino Chiwenga before delivering his speech at State House in Harare last night. Photo: AP

Ed Cropley

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has agreed to stand down and his resignation letter has been drafted, CNN said on Monday, citing a source familiar with his negotiations with the generals who seized power in Harare last week.

Under the terms of the deal, Mugabe and his wife Grace would be granted full immunity, CNN said.

Two senior government sources told Reuters late on Sunday that Mugabe had agreed to resign but did not know details of his departure.

Zimbabwe ruling party's midday deadline for President Robert Mugabe to leave office or face impeachment has passed.

Robert Mugabe stunned the world last night by refusing to step aside as president of Zimbabwe, leaving him clinging to power despite being dismissed as leader of his own party.

Instead, he used a televised address to acknowledge deep criticism of his leadership but promised to preside over next month's congress of the ruling Zanu-PF party.

The extraordinary spectacle of a 93-year-old ruler stumbling over his words while flanked by army generals suggests that a man whose reputation was forged as one of Africa's liberation leaders is running out of time. Senior party figures say they will go ahead with impeachment proceedings, prompted by anger at the growing power amassed by Mr Mugabe's wife, Grace.

During his speech, Mr Mugabe praised the country for the peaceful way it was dealing with the current crisis and said it was understandable that failures of the past had triggered anger.

"We cannot be divided by bitterness or vengefulness, which would not make us any better party members, or any better Zimbabweans," he said.

He invoked the memory of the country's liberation struggle in an effort to unite the warring factions. "I am confident that from tonight our whole nation at all levels gets refocused as we put shoulder to the wheel amid the promising agricultural season of rain upon us. Let us all move forward reminding ourselves of our wartime mantra [you and I have work to do]. I thank you and good night."

With the camera still rolling, he apologised for fluffing his lines and said he hoped it could be corrected.

Mugabe has been under house arrest since the army moved in on Tuesday, angered by his decision to dismiss Emmerson Mnangagwa, his long-term deputy, and position Mrs Mugabe to succeed him.

He appeared on television hours after his own Zanu-PF party dismissed him as leader and said it would launch impeachment proceedings if he did not step down as president by noon today.

Zimbabweans who took to the streets on Saturday to demand his resignation gathered around televisions in anticipation, but anger spread rapidly when the address ended without any sign that Mr Mugabe was standing down.

The leader of Zimbabwe's war veterans immediately said opponents would press on with impeachment. Chris Mutsvangwa, who has been leading a campaign to oust Mr Mugabe, told Reuters that people would take to the streets of Harare on Wednesday.

Douglas Mwonzora, secretary general of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, said the army generals had let down the country. "What this means is that Zanu-PF spoke too soon. They expected him to resign," he said.

Earlier, senior Zanu-PF figures gathered to deliver what they thought would be the fatal blow. As they removed him as party head, Zanu-PF's central committee reminded delegates they were meeting with a "heavy heart". Obert Mpofu instead blamed Grace Mugabe and her associates who "have taken advantage of his frail condition".

About 200 members of the Zanu-PF central committee met at party headquarters in Harare. Delegates cheered and sang as Mr Mugabe was removed from his post and other figures loyal to the first lady, including a quarter of the cabinet, were expelled.

Patrick Chinamasa, the reformist finance minister sacked last month, said he would ensure Mrs Mugabe was arrested if necessary.

Impeachment requires two-thirds of the members of the House of Assembly to impeach him and that process is expected to begin today.

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