Update 8: Bloomberg is reporting that Zimbabwe’s ruling party will proceed Monday with its plans to impeach President Robert Mugabe after the long-term leader refused to resign Sunday evening, as was expected. Bloomberg's sources said Mugabe’s speech, including a vow to preside over the party conference in December, deviated from an earlier agreement with military authorities to read a prepared statement of resignation.
Unsurprisingly given his past remarks, it seems Mugabe is comfortable risking a civil war if it means retaining his tenuous grip on power. So with the path forward for Zimbabwe looking dangerously uncertain, the AP has published a timeline reminding readers exactly how we got to this point…
- Nov. 6: After a campaign of public insults against Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe fires his longtime deputy, later accusing him of plotting to take power via witchcraft. Mnangagwa flees the country.
- Nov 13: Army commander Constantino Chiwenga issues a rare public rebuke, saying the military won't hesitate to "step in" to calm political tensions and criticizing the handling of the once-prosperous southern African nation's crumbling economy.
- Nov. 14: Armored personnel carriers are seen on the outskirts of the capital, Harare. The military moves in overnight, taking control of the state-run broadcaster.
- Nov. 15: The military announces that Mugabe is under house arrest and an operation has begun to arrest "criminals" around him who harmed the economy. Unpopular first lady Grace Mugabe, who many feared would replace Mnangagwa and even succeed her husband, disappears from view.
- Nov. 16: State-run media publish extraordinary photos of a smiling Mugabe shaking hands with the army commander at the State House amid negotiations on the president's exit as the military tries to avoid accusations of a coup.
- Nov. 17: The army, which continues to refer to Mugabe as president, allows him to make his first public appearance since house arrest. He appears at a graduation ceremony to polite applause.
- Nov. 18: The bulk of the capital's roughly 1.6 million people pour into the streets in an anti-Mugabe demonstration that even days ago would have brought a police crackdown.
- Nov. 19: The ruling party Central Committee expels Mugabe as party leader and tells him to step aside as president by noon Monday or face impeachment. In a speech on national television, he does not announce his resignation as expected.
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Update 7: The path forward for the Zimbabwe military, PANU ZF and Mugabe is still uncertain, but the president has made one thing strikingly clear: He appears he intends to cling to power until he is forcibly removed…
Furthermore, Bloomberg is reporting that Mugabe's speech deviated from his prepared comments, suggesting that he deliberately misled his military handlers.
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Update 6: At the close of a long-winded address, Mugabe admitted that "mistakes have been made" during his tenure as president, but insisted that the people of Zimbabwe learn to put these mistakes behind them, and move forward, adding that he would preside over the upcoming Congress.
In short, he is not resigning…
Many noted that the speech didn't sound like a resignation speech. It was also much shorter than the hours-long addresses Mugabe is known for. Mugabe's own political party, ZANU PF, promised earlier that Mugabe would resign by noon Monday. During the speech, he noted that Zimbabwe's economy had hit a "rough patch" (something of an understatement) and added that the ruling party needed to put an end to victimization and arbitrary decision-making.
He also noted in his speech that “intergenerational conflict must be resolved,” apparently a reference to the exile of his 52-year-old wife, Grace, whom he had been grooming to succeed him. Mugabe is 93 and had been backed by fellow veterans of the country’s liberation war, until they recently turned against him.
Of course, Mugabe isn't the first African leader in recent memory to pull a stunt like this…
The Associated Press reported that Mugabe has "baffled the country" by refusing to resign:
The ruling party’s Central Committee just hours earlier told him to resign as president by noon Monday or face impeachment proceedings the following day.
Zimbabweans gathered in expectation of a celebration. Instead, Mugabe appeared to hint at challenging the ruling party, which has expelled him as its leader, by trying to stay on.
Mugabe made a reference to presiding over a party congress next month. “The congress is due in a few weeks from now. I will preside over its processes, which must not be possessed by any acts calculated to undermine it or compromise the outcomes in the eyes of the public."
Officials close to the talks between Mugabe and the military had said Mugabe was resigning.
Just a few minutes after going live today, the state broadcaster, ZBC, had more than 12,000 live viewers on Facebook, which likely qualifies it as the largest Facebook Livestream audience of anyone in Zimbabwe. The number jumped to more than 20,000 soon after the announcement began and about 33,000 several minutes later. The final count we got was 36,500. At the end of the broadcast, the video had received more than a quarter of a million views, according to TechZim.
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Update 5: Here's the live feed for Mugabe's speech, which is being broadcast on the state TV channel:
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Update 4: Reuters is reporting that Robert Mugabe has reluctantly agreed to resign the presidency of Zimbabwe after 37 years in power. His decision comes after members of his own party voted to oust him during an emergency vote held Sunday.
ZANU-PF had given the 93-year-old less than 24 hours to quit as head of state or face impeachment, an attempt to secure a peaceful end to his tenure after a de facto coup.
Zimbabwe’s state broadcaster ZBC said Mugabe, who was once lauded as an anti-colonialist hero for driving the British out of what was then called Rhodesia, would address the nation shortly. Earlier on Sunday, the official Herald newspaper showed pictures of him meeting top generals at his State House offices, and a ZBC source said an outside-broadcast truck was being sent in preparation for an announcement.
…Mugabe's speech is now expected to begin 'shortly':
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Update 3: After a meeting with military officials, Mugabe's resignation appears imminent…
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Update 2: Mugabe, who remains under house arrest, is meeting with the commanders of the country's military shortly after lawmakers approved an ultimatum for the long-time strongman to either resign, or be forced…
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Update: Initial media reports about Mugabe's ouster were confusing: While the country's ruling party had voted to expel him, several sources quoted by western media outlets said the vote was only the trigger to start the process of removing Mugabe, and that he is still technically president of Zimbabwe.
Fortunately, the ruling Zanu-PF party has issued a quick clarification: Mugabe – who has obstinantly refused to officially abdicate in accordance with the military's demands – has until noon tomorrow to resign. If he doesn't, he will be impeached.
Zimbabwe's ruling party confirmed the news in a tweet…
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A day after thousands of demonstrators took to the streets of Harare to celebrate the imminent removal of Robert Mugabe, the country’s 93-year-old dictator who’d been effectively deposed during a surprise coup earlier this week, the country’s ruling party has officially voted to remove him from office and install his former deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, as interim leader.
As we’ve pointed out, Mugabe triggered his own downfall when he fired Mnangagwa last week to try and clear a path for his much-younger wife, Grace, to succeed him as leader of Zimbabwe. Mugabe tried to appoint his 52-year-old wife to Mnangagwa's former position, which would've positioned her to be his successor. However, Mnangagwa’s sudden ouster outraged the leaders of Zimbabwe’s military, who decided to intervene and place Mugabe under house arrest.
Mugabe had resisted the military’s request to step down, so on Friday, the country’s 10 provincial committees resolved to oust Mugabe. That decision was ratified Sunday at a meeting of Zimbabwe’s central executives, according to the head of the country's influential liberation war veterans.
Meanwhile, ABC reported that Mugabe's wife Grace – who reportedly fled the country after the coup – has been officially expelled by ZANU-PF, the ruling party. Veterans leader Chris Mutsvangwa said now that Mugabe’s ouster is official, processes to remove the 93-year-old as President could now begin.
Attendants at the meeting sang and danced in celebration after unanimously voting to remove Mugabe.
After the vote, members of the central committee started singing “Chengetedza” by Jah Prayzah, a popular Zimbabwean musician. According to local media, the song has become an anthem for the de facto anthem of the movement to oust Mugabe.
Before voting, members of Zimbabwe’s central committee sung the national anthem.
According to one BBC reporter, journalists were asked to leave the room after the vote as the party set about formalizing the decision.
In his opening remarks at a meeting of ZANU-PF's Central Committee, Obert Mpofu, the official chairing the gathering, said the party had come together with "a heavy heart,” adding that Mugabe’s wife, Grace, and others in his orbit had taken advantage of his age and feebleness to loot the country’s national resources. Mpofu then hailed the beginning of "a new era, not only for our party but for our nation Zimbabwe,” according to ABC.
Mpofu said Mugabe was responsible for "many memorable achievements.”
Mugabe, who remains under house arrest, was reportedly supposed to meet Sunday with the military for a second round of talks to negotiate his departure. It’s unclear if this meeting has taken place.
While Zimbabwe lawmakers have voted to begin the process of Mugabe’s ouster, he technically remains the president of Zimbabwe. However, the vote greatly increases the pressure on him to abdicate, the BBC reported.
Veterans leader Mutsvangwa expressed his excitement over Mugabe’s ouster in an interview with local media.
“The president is gone! Long live the new president!”
Shortly before the vote, local media captured this iconic video of demonstrators tearing down a billboard advertising the Zimbabwe Youth League, a pro-Mugabe group.
Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since the country won its independence from the UK in 1980. Under his watch, the economy has imploded, leaving 95 percent of the workforce unemployed, according to Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions estimates, and forcing as many as 3 million people into exile.
While Zimbabwe's ruling party led the effort to oust Mugabe, opposition lawmakers had threatened to begin impeachment proceedings if he was not swiftly removed, according to Fox News.
"If Mugabe is not gone by Tuesday, then as sure as the sun rises from the east, impeachment process will kick in," said Innocent Gonese, a member of the opposition MDC-T party.
Hope for a better future crested on Sunday. But whether life will measurably improve for the people of Zimbabwe remains to be seen…