Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party said on Sunday that Robert Mugabe must resign as the country’s president or face impeachment, as it also resolved to expel his wife Grace.
A party meeting in Harare agreed that “Mugabe resign forthwith from his position as president of Zimbabwe” by midday Monday or face impeachment proceedings.
Party spokesman Simon Khaya Moyo added that “Grace is on the list of people to be expelled from the party”.
On Sunday, Mugabe was facing the imminent end of his 37-year rule as the once-loyal ZANU-PF party sacked him as its leader and army generals piled pressure on him to resign by Monday.
Mugabe’s grip on power was broken last week when the military took over, angered at his wife Grace’s emergence as the leading candidate to succeed the 93-year-old president. On Saturday, tens of thousands of overjoyed protesters flooded the streets of Zimbabwe in peaceful celebrations marking the apparent end of his long and authoritarian rule.
“We meet here today with a heavy heart,” party official Obert Mpofu told the ZANU-PF meeting in Harare on Sunday, referring to Mugabe as “the outgoing president”.
“(Mugabe’s) wife and close associates have taken advantage of his frail condition to usurp power and loot state resources,” he said.
“Our people are demanding… the recall of the president and first secretary of ZANU-PF from his position in the party.”
Mugabe remains in office but now faces overwhelming opposition from the generals, much of the Zimbabwean public and from his own party.
The influential ZANU-PF Youth League on Sunday reversed its previous devotion to Mugabe, saying that he must resign and Grace must be expelled from the party.
Army chiefs who led the takeover were due to hold further talks with the president later Sunday.
The two sides first met on Thursday, smiling in photographs that attempted to present a dignified image of the tense process of negotiating Mugabe’s departure.
Veterans of the independence war — who were also formerly key Mugabe allies — added their voice in support of him resigning, demanding that he leave office on Sunday.
Zimbabweans have experienced a historic week in which the military seized power and put Mugabe under house arrest in response to his sacking of vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, chief rival of Mugabe’s powerful 52-year-old wife Grace.
On Saturday, in scenes of public euphoria not seen since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, huge crowds marched and sang their way through Harare and other cities.
The demonstrations included citizens of all ages, jubilant that Mugabe appeared to be on his way out.
In central Harare, a group of young men tore down a green metal street sign bearing Robert Mugabe’s name and smashed it repeatedly on the road.
Such open dissent would have just a week ago would have been routinely crushed by security forces.
Peace, jobs, a normal life
“What you saw yesterday, it shows that the people have spoken,” Mordecai Makore, 71, a retired teacher told AFP after attending Sunday morning service at the Catholic cathedral in central Harare.
“All we want is peace, a good life with a working economy that creates jobs for our people. We will continue praying for that. I want my children and grandchildren to live a normal good life.”
The majority of Zimbabweans have only known life under Mugabe’s rule, which has been defined by violent suppression, economic collapse and international isolation.
Sources suggest Mugabe has been battling to delay to his exit and to secure a deal guaranteeing future protection for him and his family.
He attended a university graduation ceremony on Friday, in a show of defiance at the talks with General Constantino Chiwenga, who led the military power grab.
The succession race that triggered Zimbabwe’s sudden crisis was between party hardliner Mnangagwa — known as the Crocodile — and a group called “Generation 40” or “G40” because its members are generally younger, which campaigned for Grace’s cause.
“She is very acceptable. Very much accepted by the people,” Mugabe said of Grace in a faltering interview to mark his 93rd birthday last February.
The president, who is feted in parts of Africa as the continent’s last surviving liberation leader, is increasingly fragile health, but previously said he would stand in elections next year that could see him remain in power until aged nearly 100.
He became prime minister on Zimbabwe’s independence from Britain in 1980 and then president in 1987.
Zimbabwe’s economic output has halved since 2000 when many white-owned farms were seized, leaving the key agricultural sector in ruins.
© Agence France-Presse