(TriceEdneyWire/GIN) – President Robert Mugabe resigned today after ruling the southern African nation of Zimbabwe for 37 years. He initially rejected demands from former friendly generals and independence war veterans to step down.
Mugabe’s resignation came minutes into a joint session of Zimbabwe’s parliament in the capital of Harare. Parliament was convened to force the 93-year-old leader from power.
In a televised address late Sunday, Mugabe crushed expectations he would resign after a military takeover, pitching the country into a second week of political crisis.
Lawmakers from his ruling ZANU-PF party said that they would take the first steps on Tuesday necessary to push Mugabe from office as the veteran leader had ignored their ultimatum to announce his departure by Monday morning.
“We have got a clear position, we are going to impeach — the man has to go,” government MP MacKenzie Ncube told the French news wire AFP after a key meeting of ruling party lawmakers.
Once a simple majority of parliamentarians votes for impeachment, an investigative committee is formed by lawmakers, who report back to both houses of parliament. Each house must then vote by a two-thirds majority for him to be stripped of office.
In a 20 minute speech on Sunday, Mugabe, surrounded by military men, downplayed what was called a “soft coup.” He said the operation by his generals did not represent a threat to the country’s constitutional order nor was it a challenge to his authority as head of state.
Referencing the mounting discontent from inside his party and from the security forces, he admitted: “I as the President of Zimbabwe and their commander in chief do acknowledge the issues they have drawn my attention to… These were raised in the spirit of honesty and out of deep and patriotic concern.”
He suggested that a conversation within the party could return the country to normalcy “so all our people could go about their business unhindered, in perfect peace and security, assured that law and order obtain and prevail as before.”
But in the streets, the anticipation of long-awaited change had exploded in joyous street rallies and marches – clearly Zimbabweans had turned a corner on the Mugabe era. The country was not likely to “return to normalcy,” as the President claimed.
Mrs. Mugabe, whose rise to power and possibly the presidency alarmed war veterans and generals, stayed out of the limelight.
The unexpected developments that began last Tuesday produced voluminous articles and interviews by Zimbabweans and western observers. Many expressed concerned that the stage-management by military officers was not the return to democracy that many had hoped.
“Some citizens, rightfully desperate for change, say this is the best step toward some kind of reform, but it’s not,” wrote Glen Mpani, a Zimbabwean political analyst for the New York Times. “There is evidence this intervention is driven by the self-interest of military generals rather than national interest, which makes prospects for economic and democratic reforms bleak.”
“Handing power to the military will leave Zimbabweans at the mercy of a very unpredictable group that has rarely worked on behalf of the people,” he continued. “And military leadership will most certainly leave the people with an unpredictable future.
“Coups are a regressive path to achieving democratic ends,” he concluded. “Once the army has settled in, its interests — not ours — will be the priority. Any prospects for reforming the country lie in returning power to citizens — and for the army to respect civilian authority.
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