Mugabe told to resign ahead of impeachment proceedings

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Zimbabwe’s Commander Defense Forces General Constatntino Guveya Chiwenga, center, speaks during a press conference at the Tongogara Barracks in Harare, Zimbabwe on Monday. — AFP

HARARE — Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe should acknowledge the nation’s “insatiable desire” for a leadership change and resign immediately, the recently fired vice president and likely successor to the 93-year-old leader said on Tuesday, as impeachment proceedings were set to begin against the world’s oldest head of state.

The statement by Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was dismissed earlier this month, added to immense pressure on Mugabe to quit after nearly four decades in power, during which he evolved from a champion of the fight against white minority rule into a figure blamed for a collapsing economy, government dysfunction and human rights violations.

The ruling ZANU-PF party was poised to begin impeachment proceedings against Mugabe after its Central Committee voted to oust the president as party leader and select Mnangagwa as his replacement, a move that eventually could allow the former vice president to become head of state. Mnangagwa served for decades as Mugabe’s enforcer, with a reputation for being astute and ruthless, more feared than popular.

“The people of Zimbabwe have spoken with one voice and it is my appeal to President Mugabe that he should take heed of this clarion call and resign forthwith so that the country can move forward and preserve his legacy,” Mnangagwa said in his statement.

Mnangagwa, who fled the country and has not appeared in public during the past week’s political turmoil, said Mugabe had invited him to return to Zimbabwe “for a discussion” on recent events. However, he said he will not return for now, alleging that there had been plans to kill him at the time of his firing.

“I will be returning as soon as the right conditions for security and stability prevail,” said Mnangagwa, who has a loyal support base in the military. “Never should the nation be held at ransom by one person ever again, whose desire is to die in office at whatever cost to the nation.”

Zimbabwe’s polarizing first lady, Grace Mugabe, had been positioning herself to succeed her husband, leading a party faction that engineered Mnangagwa’s ouster. The prospect of a dynastic succession alarmed the military, which confined Mugabe to his home last week and targeted what it called “criminals” around him who allegedly were looting state resources — a reference to associates of the first lady.

Mnangagwa was targeted by US sanctions in the early 2000s for undermining democratic development in Zimbabwe, according to the Atlantic Council, a US-based policy institute. However, J. Peter Pham, an Africa expert at the council, noted that some Zimbabwean opposition figures have appeared willing to have dialogue with Mnangagwa in order to move the country forward and that the international community should consider doing the same.

“We’re not saying whitewash the past, but it is in the interests of everyone that Zimbabwe is engaged at this critical time,” Pham said in a statement.

Impeachment proceedings were expected to start with the resumption of parliament on Tuesday, days after huge crowds surged through the capital, Harare, to demand that Mugabe quit. — AP


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