Mugabe faces vote to remove him from office within two days

Zimbabwean president had been given deadline to stand down or face impeachment

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe defies his own ZANU-PF party and hundreds of thousands of protesters demanding his resignation by pledging in a television address to preside over the party's next congress in December. Video: Reuters

 

Zimbabwe’s embattled president, Robert Mugabe, could be voted out of power within two days after the country’s ruling Zanu-PF party prepares to bring impeachment proceedings against him in parliament.

The party summoned its lawmakers to party headquarters in Harare on Monday to discuss the motion to have Mr Mugabe removed, after he ignored a noon deadline set by the former liberation movement to quit.

The party has already fired Mr Mugabe as its leader.

The motion of no confidence states that Mr Mugabe, who is under house arrest at his private residence, has become the country’s “main source of instability” through his indiscriminate dismissal of members of cabinet.

It goes on to accuse the president of not taking any “meaningful steps to end endemic corruption, which has become the country’s number one enemy”, and of abandoning his constitutional mandate to his unpopular wife, Grace.

The proposal is expected to be tabled in the House of Assembly and the Senate on Tuesday, and Zanu-PF has indicated that Mr Mugabe could be impeached in as little as two days.

A two-thirds majority in both chambers is needed for the motion to pass. The party has indicated that 90 per cent of its members in both chambers and all of those on the opposition benches have confirmed they will support it.

“We don’t take lightly our proposed impeachment motion,” a message posted on the party’s official Twitter account read yesterday afternoon. “It is a last resort.”

Crumbling support

The ageing dictator’s support base has crumbled away to almost nothing since the country’s armed forces instigated a military takeover in the early hours of Wednesday.

The military has maintained its actions should not be construed as a coup, but rather an operation to remove “criminal elements” from government.

It is believed that dozens of government ministers and senior Zanu-PF officials aligned to a faction in the party called Generation 40, which wants to install Ms Mugabe as her husband’s successor, have been detained by the army during its operations.

The crisis began two weeks ago when Mr Mugabe sacked his deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, a move that angered army commanders. They saw it as part of an ongoing purge of the former liberation movement’s heroes from the war of independence by the Generation 40 faction.

Mr Mnangagwa, who fled to South Africa after his dismissal, is in contact with Mr Mugabe and will return to Zimbabwe soon, the army chief, Gen Constantino Chiwenga, said in a televised statement Monday.

Monday’s resignation deadline was set after the veteran leader defied expectations on Sunday evening that he would quit in a live television address to the nation.

Instead Mr Mugabe said he planned to preside over a special Zanu-PF congress next month, a comment that baffled many viewers, as the ruling party had earlier expelled him.

Mr Mugabe’s refusal to make way after 37 years in power has united the ruling party, opposition parties, civil society and the general public against him, an unprecedented development in the country’s postcolonial era.

Dignity and decency

Zimbabwe’s war veterans, who were staunch Mugabe allies until recent months, indicated on Monday they would initiate court proceedings to legalise the military action taken against the president as part of efforts to get rid of him.

The group’s leader, Christopher Mutsvangwa also pleaded with Mr Mugabe to leave State House. “You should have the dignity and decency to spare the country further turmoil by simply announcing your departure immediately,” he said.

He also warned that war veterans were prepared to mobilise people to take to the streets for the second time in a week should he not resign. On Saturday huge anti-Mugabe protests took place in urban areas around the country.

Mr Mugabe has already been replaced by Mr Mnangagwa as Zanu-PF’s interim leader, according to Zimbabwe’s Daily News. He is likely to be officially voted in as the new party president at its congress next month.

Despite the popularity of the army’s takeover, if Mr Mugabe is not removed through a legally sound process, the legitimacy of those who front the transitional arrangement that is expected to replace him could be challenged by regional bodies such as the African Union.

It is unclear what is motivating Mr Mugabe to stay in power, as his wealth and safety and that of his family, has been assured if he agrees to resign.

However, if he forces Zanu-PF to impeach him, he may end up on trial in court, according to law experts, as such a process is only invoked by evidence of criminality or a substantial abuse of power.