Zimbabwe’s ruling party formally ousted embattled President Robert Mugabe Sunday morning, giving him until Monday to resign or be formally impeached. That deadline has now passed, but Mugabe has given no signal that he’ll exit.
The ruling ZANU-PF party voted Sunday to remove Mugabe as president and head of the party and appointed his former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa to succeed him, the Associated Press reported. Mugabe took to state television later that night, to deliver what many believed to be his formal resignation speech. Instead, the 93-year-old leader talked about healing divisions in the country, saying nothing about stepping down.
The party vote gives Mugabe until noon Monday to leave office. If he does not, impeachment proceedings will start when the country’s parliament convenes on Tuesday. The move could bring a rapid end to a crisis that was triggered when the country’s military ousted Mugabe in a bloodless coup last week. Mugabe’s impeachment would represent a massive power shift in the country, which the president has ruled with an iron fist since 1980. ZANU-PF members also ousted Zimbabwe’s controversial first lady Grace Mugabe, who many believed was poised to become her husband’s successor.
On Sunday, the mood in the room was jubilant as the deciding votes were cast in favor of Mugabe’s removal, the AP reported. The decision came a day after thousands of people marched peacefully in the capital Harare and other cities, calling for the president’s exit.
Sunday’s vote came about two weeks after Mugabe fired Mnangagwa, which led to tanks rolling through the streets of Harare while military leaders took over Zimbabwe’s state television and placed Mugabe under house arrest.
Underlying all of this is a power struggle between the Mugabe family and Mnangagwa, who has plenty of military allies. As vice president, Mnangagwa was supposed to be next in line for the presidency. But there was increased speculation that the spot would go to Grace Mugabe, a controversial figure with few friends in the military or the ruling party.
Grace Mugabe has not appeared in public since Wednesday, the New York Times reported.
Mugabe has been in power for 37 years. He became prime minister in 1980, the same year Zimbabwe gained independence from Great Britain. The country was once called the “breadbasket” of the region, but under Mugabe’s rule, Zimbabwe’s economy has declined sharply, in large part due to corruption and government mismanagement.
It’s clear Zimbabwe’s citizens want Mugabe out, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty about the country’s future, and whether Mnangagwa or the military represents a real change. Nicknamed the “Crocodile,” the former vice president is widely seen as another ruthless strongman, carrying out many of Mugabe’s policies over the years and participating in a bloody crackdown on a minority ethic group in 1980.
“There is a healthy dose of trepidation because they know that the man who might take over is not Mr. Democracy,” Wilf Mbanga, editor of the online newspaper the Zimbabwean, told the New York Times. “His track record is not impressive. He’s got a messy past. Is he going to clean his act? We don’t know.”