The Zimbabwean parliament may plan on impeaching Robert Mugabe, but he won’t give up that easily

The army may no longer be totally united: some middle ranking officers are said to be muttering that the chief, General Constantino Chiwenga, had sold out to Mugabe

Kim Sengupta
Harare
Monday 20 November 2017 11:39
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The President delivered his speech during a live broadcast at State House, but baffled the country by neglecting to announce his resignation
The President delivered his speech during a live broadcast at State House, but baffled the country by neglecting to announce his resignation

Grace Mugabe, “Gucci Grace” or “DisGrace” is accused of being the Lady Macbeth of this affair. “G 40”, or “Generation 40”, are ambitious, unscrupulous men who had hitched their stars to her rise. Her part in the sacking of Emmerson “The Crocodile” Mnangagwa as Vice President directly triggered the current turmoil in the land.

His supporters, “Team Lacoste”, should now be in ascendance. And today we have “High Noon”: the time by which the President, Robert Mugabe, should resign or face impeachment.

Zimbabwe’s power-struggle has been stylised, with an element of glitz, and the drama unfolding now certainly contains its share of suspense and surprises. That reached its apogee last night when Robert Mugabe was supposed to make his resignation on State TV, bringing to an end his reign as the longest-serving ruler in Africa.

Except, as we know, he did nothing of the kind. The 93-year-old President stumbled through his words, got his pages mixed up, apologised for repeating himself, agreed reforms were necessary and then vowed to carry on. Surrounded by respectful military commanders, his captors, he declared that he would preside over his party’s emergency meeting next month.

That should, in theory, be impossible, as he had earlier been stripped of leadership and replaced by Mnangagwa. But nothing is quite certain in the current state of affairs. There were rumours this morning that Mugabe may resign after all, but rumours are all they are at the moment.

What we do know is that Mugabe, deposed and put under house arrest six days ago, made a presidential address on TV and, two days earlier, attended a university graduation ceremony with ceremonial escort.

Mugabe fails to resign in state broadcast

There is no sign of Mnangagwa, the new leader of the party and President-in-waiting. He had fled to South Africa saying he feared for his life after being sacked by Mugabe, supposedly at the insistence of Grace. He is now said to be back from exile, but was conspicuous by his absence at what was his anointment in the Zanu-PF meeting.

Meanwhile, the sense of euphoria which saw hundreds of thousands of people take to the streets on Saturday, chanting, dancing and singing to celebrate their deliverance from 37 years of Mugabe rule, has been replaced by a sense of uncertainty and unease.

Tanks are back at intersections, people are more guarded about talking to outsiders. Jordan Vushe echoed the sense of apprehension among many. He had been driving around with a placard saying “Mugabe Just Go” on Saturday. He has now taken it out of his car: “I am not burning it or anything. I am just being careful and seeing what happens,” he said.

Mugabe, according to a number of officials, had agreed to resign after the military had met a number of his conditions, including immunity from prosecution for himself, his wife and their family including her son from a previous marriage. But he apparently backtracked on the agreement to write the resignation speech together with senior officers and, at the end, refused to show them what he had written.

What came out of Mugabe’s garbled speech last night led to furious reactions. The head of the powerful organisation of war veterans accused the President of being “deaf and blind to the wishes of the people”. Christopher Mutsvangwa, who had called Saturday’s rally, threatened to “call out the crowds again to do their business”.

He had warned earlier of the risk of violence if there was no resignation. “We would expect that Mugabe would not have the prospect of the military shooting at people trying to defend him. The choice is really his; he cannot avoid it”.

Mutsvangwa was still angry this morning, but now he was talking in terms of court action by his organisation to force out the President. After stressing in the past that foreign states should not intervene, he called on the South African Development Community (SADC) and South African President Jacob Zuma to persuade Mugabe to leave.

Legal action at the High Court will take weeks and impeachment proceedings due to begin in Parliament tomorrow will not be a quick affair, either. The military, still insisting that they had not carried out a coup, are unlikely to remove the President by force.

The SADC and the African Union have strictures against the armed forces removing civilian governments and the high command is wary of doing anything which may provoke intervention. In any event, the army may no longer be totally united: some middle ranking officers are said to be muttering that the chief, General Constantino Chiwenga, had sold out to Mugabe.

So the situation remains fluid. We cannot say that Mugabe is coming back, it’s not quite “The Return of the Living Dead”. Both “Gucci Grace” and “The Crocodile” remain out of sight, but one feels there will be a few more twists and turns yet in this extraordinary episode of Zimbabwe’s history.

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