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 yesterday, as impeachment proceedings began 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 beginning 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 would not return for now, alleging that there had been plans to kill him at the time of his firing.
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, said that some Zimbabwean opposition figures have appeared willing to have dialogue with Mnangagwa 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 beginning with the resumption of parliament yesterday, days after huge crowds surged through the capital, Harare, to demand that Mugabe quit. The ruling party instructed government ministers to boycott a Cabinet meeting that Mugabe called for yesterday morning at State House, the president’s official residence, and instead attend a meeting at party headquarters to work on the impeachment.
The ruling party says the charges for impeachment include that Mugabe “allowed his wife to usurp constitutional power” and that he is “of advanced age” and no longer has the physical capacity to run the government.
It was not clear how long the impeachment process could take. The ruling party has said Mugabe could be voted out as early as today, but some analysts believe the impeachment process could take weeks and would, if conducted properly, allow Mugabe to make a case in his defense.
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