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Zimbabwe's Mugabe Faces Impeachment After Balking at Retirement

Godfrey Marawanyika, Brian Latham, Desmond Kumbuka
A ZBC broadcast shows Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe delivering a speech in Harare.

Zimbabwean lawmakers are set to begin impeachment proceedings against President Robert Mugabe on Monday, after he defied a ruling party directive to end his 37-year rule.

The 93-year-old Mugabe was widely expected to announce that he was stepping down in a televised address on Sunday night to enable Emmerson Mnangagwa, who he had fired as vice president earlier this month, to take over. Mugabe instead delivered a rambling and largely incoherent speech, in which he pledged to preside over a ruling party congress that’s due to take place in December.

Three senior party officials who spoke on condition of anonymity said Mugabe deviated from an agreed-upon-text and he’ll now be forced from office by the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front. An impeachment motion may be filed as early as Tuesday, when Parliament is due to resume sitting. He had earlier been given a deadline by his own party of midday today to resign or face impeachment.

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“Yesterday, the party recalled him, so today they’ll start impeachment proceedings against him,” Chris Mutsvangwa, the head of the Zimbabwe War Veterans Association, which has been at the forefront of the campaign for Mugabe’s removal, told reporters in Harare, the capital, on Monday. “He swapped the agreement and he proceeds to pretend as if everything is normal.”

The ruling party dumped Mugabe as its leader on Sunday, four days after the military placed him under house arrest and detained several of his closest allies -- a move triggered by his dismissal of Mnangagwa, 75. The former vice president will be reinstated, take over as interim leader and be Zanu-PF’s presidential candidate in elections next year. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets of Harare and Bulawayo, the second-largest city, on Saturday to celebrate Mugabe’s imminent ouster.

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The moves against Mugabe are the culmination of a battle for control of the ruling party between a military-aligned faction that’s coalesced around Mnangagwa and another known as the G-40, which wants the president’s wife Grace Mugabe to succeed him. Mnangagwa, who’s one of the pillars of the security establishment that has helped keep Mugabe in power since Zimbabwe gained independence in 1980, emerged as the victor, with the party expelling Grace and her allies from its ranks.

The political crisis comes at a time when the economy is in free-fall. An estimated 95 percent of the workforce is unemployed, public infrastructure is crumbling and about 3 million Zimbabweans have gone into exile.

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“We are saying Mugabe go, go now,” Mutsvangwa said Monday. “If he can’t, we will bring the people of Zimbabwe into the streets.”

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