No Word From Zimbabwe's Mugabe As Deadline For His Resignation Passes

Nov 19, 2017
Originally published on November 21, 2017 5:00 pm

Updated at 5:15 a.m. ET on Monday

A noon Monday deadline for President Robert Mugabe to voluntarily step down has come and gone with no word whether the longtime strongman of Zimbabwe will comply. Parliament has promised to initiate impeachment proceedings to remove him.

Mugabe's governing ZANU-PF party — long his personal fiefdom — showed how thoroughly the tide had turned by voting Sunday to remove him and appoint ousted Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa as his replacement. The move marked a major turn in nearly four decades of the 93-year-old Mugabe's sometimes brutal and tyrannical rule.

But in an address broadcast on state television Sunday night, which some observers had predicted Mugabe would use to announce his resignation, a defiant Mugabe refused to fold, saying he will oversee a congress meeting in a few weeks.

"I will preside over its processes, which must not be prepossessed by any acts calculated to undermine it or to compromise the outcomes in the eyes of the public," Mugabe said.

Earlier Sunday, ZANU-PF said Mugabe had until midday Monday to step down and if he refused, that parliament would step in.

"If Mugabe is not gone by Tuesday, then as sure as the sun rises from the east, impeachment process will kick in," a member of opposition party MDC-T Innocent Gonese told The Associated Press.

In his Sunday night address, Mugabe said the way forward cannot be through "vying cliques that ride roughshod over party rules and procedures." Instead, he called for a return "to the guiding principles of our party as enshrined in its constitution."

Videos posted to social media on Sunday showed members of ZANU-PF breaking into cheers as well as song and dance, following their vote to oust the world's oldest head of state.

And in a major show of unity one day earlier, thousands of Zimbabweans took to the streets of the capital, Harare, to demand that Mugabe go. The AP reports, the protest itself was a demonstration of just how much things have changed in Zimbabwe as the protesters would have faced a police crackdown just days earlier.

The ruling party also voted Sunday to dismiss Mugabe's unpopular wife Grace. "Without the military's intervention, first lady Grace Mugabe likely would have replaced Mnangagwa as vice president and been in a position to succeed her husband," The AP reports.

But questions abound about a Zimbabwe under the rule of Mnangagwa, a man who has earned the nickname of "The Crocodile." As NPR's Ofeibea Quist Arcton has reported:

"Emmerson Mnangagwa is no street angel. He is no savior. He's cut from the same cloth, the cloth that has seen Zimbabwe's economy tumble. This was the breadbasket of southern Africa. He's also seen as having been absolutely brutal in the '80s in Matabeleland when there was a massacre. So people shouldn't think of Emmerson Mnangagwa, who may come back and head an interim government, as being a savior for Zimbabwe - certainly not."

Mugabe has maintained an iron grip on power for 37 years after helping topple white minority rule in then-Rhodesia. His leadership, once regarded with hope of united independence, became characterized by a brutal crackdown on opposition, the seizure of white-owned properties and a crash in Zimbabwe's economy.

It was the firing of his deputy Mnangagwa two weeks earlier that precipitated his own downfall; the Zimbabwean army took over Wednesday, in what it described as a "bloodless correction."

Mugabe said Sunday that the army takeover was not "a challenge to my authority as head of state and government."

Sunday's vote by the central committee of ZANU-PF came from Mugabe's own party, "the party that for years was considered a bastion of (Mugabe's) regime, but has recently been riven with rivalry and infighting," reports NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton from neighboring South Africa's city of Johannesburg.

On Sunday, the increasingly-isolated Mugabe met with the military leader who had placed him under house arrest. Aftwerward Mugabe said, "arising from today's meeting is a strong sense of collegiality and comradeship."

But as Ofeibea reports, Mugabe was "looking a little weary and sometimes losing his place," during the speech, even as he clings to his seat of power, for now.

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LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

And now to some breaking news out of Zimbabwe, where a long presidency looks as if it's coming to an end. Robert Mugabe has been given an ultimatum to step down or face impeachment. He's scheduled to make an address very soon. And while we wait for that, let's turn to NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, who is watching developments in Zimbabwe. Hey. Hello?

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Greetings.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So Mugabe is 93, the world's oldest head of state. He's led Zimbabwe for 37 years since the end of colonial rule there. What - he looked like he had a solid hold on power, but that evaporated very quickly. What happened?

QUIST-ARCTON: Extraordinarily quickly. And that is because his governing party, ZANU-PF, was - is totally divided, and there has been infighting. So when President Mugabe sacked one of his vice presidents, Emmerson Mnangagwa - at the behest, we're told, of his politically ambitious and much younger wife - the military said no. Mnangagwa is also a war vet. We are not going to stand for it. And suddenly, everything unraveled. But let me just give you a little bit of context here. This is a country, Zimbabwe, that used to be the grain basket of southern Africa but now is in an economic mess. And it is Robert Mugabe who is held responsible for not having kept Zimbabwe prosperous.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What happens if indeed he is forced to step down? Who takes control of Zimbabwe?

QUIST-ARCTON: The very man he sacked only two weeks ago, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who has been a Mugabe ally - his enforcer people called him his sidekick - in a way his henchman. They're cut from the same cloth. So if Zimbabweans are wanting change and reform and economic development, many say Emmerson Mnangagwa is not the man. But he's the governing ZANU-PF's man and apparently the military's man, so they may have to put up with him. He is now the interim leader of the party. And if President Mugabe goes ahead and resigns tonight, Sunday, then we could see that Mnangagwa takes over as president of the nation.

Not everybody is for that, but they have very little choice. But now that we've seen people power - people on the streets of Zimbabwe, people on the streets of the capital, Harare, no longer afraid, no longer fearful of the military - there has been a seat change in this country over 10 days.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What does it mean for the region and the continent, really, for there to be this kind of leadership change in Zimbabwe? Is it going to be business as usual? Because indeed, as you mentioned, this is Robert Mugabe's man who might take over.

QUIST-ARCTON: Very clear message to the continent - do not overstay your welcome. Thirty-seven years in power. As you said, Lulu, the world's oldest leader. But you must do good for your nation, especially when you had everything at the beginning. You said that you were going to live well with the whites in Zimbabwe, and it didn't happen. And when you realized people were against you, you, Mugabe, are the one who ruined your country. And that will be the legacy that you'll have to live with.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Ofeibea Quist-Arcton. She joins us now. Thank you so much.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.