It was widely believed to be an historic moment when Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe would step down. But instead, during an address to the nation, Mugabe simply provided an update on meetings that have taken place since the army took control of Zimbabwe.
The first hint that Mugabe would remain president came late into his 20 minute speech. Zanu-PF is set to begin its congress in December where its new leader is meant to take over the reigns from Mugabe. But despite being reportedly axed from the party earlier on Sunday, Mugabe said in his address that he would still be overseeing the congress.
“I will preside over its processes,” he said.
He made his address to the nation from State House in Harare. Senior army officials from the Zimbabwean Defence Force (ZDF) sat to his right, with General Constatino Chiwenga, the man who threatened a coup a day before the army took control of Zimbabwe, sitting closest to him.
Mugabe had been meeting with army generals on Sunday prior to the address. He listed some of the main concerns that had been tabled, which included: disunity in Zanu-PF and in government, the Zimbabwean economy being in a “difficult patch”, and the internal failings within Zanu-PF.
“The current criticism raised against it [Zanu-PF] by the command element and some of it [Zanu-PF’s] members have arisen from a well founded perception that the party was straying or even failing its own rules and procedures,” Mugabe said.
Zanu-PF has been dominated by factionalism. This year has seen a split in the party where G40, a faction aligned to presidential hopeful Grace Mugabe, has been competing against supporters of former Zanu-PF vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mugabe axed Mnangagwa after his wife publicly demanded his dismissal, which would pave the way for her to be Mugabe’s successor at the congress in December.
Mugabe said during his speech, that the meeting with army officials made clear the “need to collectively start processes that return our nation to normalcy”. He said that after the meeting there was a “strong sense of collegiality and comradeship”.
The army has held Mugabe under house arrest. The ZDF had initiated a takeover on Tuesday evening, but has maintained that a coup is not taking place in Zimbabwe. Mugabe himself said in his speech that his authority has not been threatened. Already, the African Union has announced it will not support a coup in the country, because it is not a democratic process.
Mugabe said that the issues tabled by the ZDF and members of Zanu-PF will be resolved at the congress in a few weeks.
“The way forward cannot be based on swapping cliques,” he said.
Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe for the past 30 years as president. On Saturday, a mass march in Harare and solidarity marches from Zimbabweans in the diaspora called for “Uncle Bob” to step down.
In for Mugabe to exit his office, there will have to be a parliamentary process to impeach him. Both the AU and the Southern African Development Community have said the army must remove him by illegal means, which includes a coup.
Both Robert and Grace Mugabe, as well as members of the G40 faction, were expelled reportedly from Zanu-PF on Sunday. Mnangagwa is reportedly the new Zanu-PF president.
At this end of his speech, Mugabe, instead of announcing the resignation many had expected, simply said: “I thank you and goodnight”.