'There’s no going back,' Zanu-PF tells Mugabe as party move to fire him
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's fate hung in the balance as it emerged that leaders of his ruling Zanu-PF party are meeting on Friday to draft a resolution to dismiss him at the weekend and lay the ground for his impeachment if he refuses to stand down.
“There is no going back,” a senior party source said. “If he becomes stubborn, we will arrange for him to be fired on Sunday. When that is done, it’s impeachment on Tuesday.”
AFP meanwhile are reporting that Zimbabwe’s former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose sacking last week triggered the military takeover, has returned to the country.
“Yes, he is back,” a senior aide, who declined to be named, said.
On Thursday Mugabe apparently resisted efforts to make him step down following a seizure of power by the army, until this week a key pillar of his 37-year-rule.
The United States, a longtime critic of Mugabe over allegations of human rights abuses and election rigging, is seeking "a new era" for Zimbabwe, the State Department's top official for Africa said, an implicit call for the nonagenarian leader to quit.
The unfolding drama in the capital, Harare, was thrown into confusion when a smiling Mugabe was pictured shaking hands with Zimbabwe's military chief, the man behind the coup, raising questions about whether or not the end of an era was near.
Mugabe unexpectedly drove on Thursday from his lavish "Blue Roof" compound, where he had been confined, to State House, where official media pictured him meeting military boss Constantino Chiwenga and South African mediators.
The official Herald newspaper carried no reports of the meeting's outcome, leaving Zimbabwe's 13 million people in the dark about the situation.
In an interview with Reuters, acting US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Donald Yamamoto appeared to dismiss the idea of Mugabe remaining in a transitional or ceremonial role.
"It's a transition to a new era for Zimbabwe, that's really what we're hoping for," Yamamoto said.
The army may want Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980, to go quietly and allow a smooth and bloodless transition to Mnangagwa.
The main goal of the generals is to prevent Mugabe from handing power to his wife, Grace, 41 years his junior, who has built a following among the ruling party's youth wing and appeared on the cusp of power after Mnangagwa was pushed out.
'SOME SORT OF AGREEMENT'
Mugabe, who at 93 has appeared increasingly frail in public, is insisting he remains Zimbabwe's only legitimate ruler and is refusing to quit. But pressure was mounting on the former guerrilla to accept offers of a graceful exit, political sources said.
Zimbabwe's former head of intelligence, Dumiso Dabengwa, was to hold a news conference in Johannesburg at 1200 GMT. A South African government source said he expected Dabengwa, a close ally of the ousted Mnangagwa, to discuss the events in Zimbabwe. "It seems there is some sort of agreement," the source said.
The army's takeover signaled the collapse in less than 36 hours of the security, intelligence and patronage networks that sustained Mugabe through almost four decades in power and built him into the "Grand Old Man" of African politics.
Once a regional breadbasket, Zimbabwe saw its economy collapse after the seizure of white-owned farms in the early 2000s, followed by runaway money-printing that catapulted inflation to 500 billion percent in 2008.
- Reuters with additional reporting by AFP