A deadline set by the party of Robert Mugabe to resign as the country’s President has passed without a public statement, as speculation swirls over the veteran leader’s next move.
A source with knowledge of negotiations over Mugabe’s future told CNN that the President had agreed to terms for his exit and that a letter had been drafted.
But the 93-year-old leader has defied all expectations in the past week of political turmoil and efforts to end his 37-year rule appear to still be in a state of flux. Mugabe stunned the nation on Sunday night by making a rambling televised statement that unexpectedly ended without his resignation.
Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party, which he co-founded and led for decades, ousted him as party leader on Sunday and gave him an ultimatum — relinquish the presidency by midday on Monday or face an impeachment vote in Parliament.
Mugabe deal?: The military has given into demands from the President for full immunity for himself and his wife, Grace Mugabe, the source told CNN.
ZANU-PF ultimatum: ZANU-PF plans to meet Monday afternoon to discuss starting the impeachment process, Reuters reports.
Former VP in spotlight: ZANU-PF announced the former vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, as its new party leader. He was fired by Mugabe on November 6, triggering the political crisis.
Mugabe’s bizarre speech
Military leaders have been in talks with Mugabe over his exit since Wednesday last week, when the army staged an apparent coup in the capital, Harare, and placed him under house arrest.
Mugabe’s speech on Sunday was the most bizarre public moment since the talks began — not only did he defy expectations to stand down, he fumbled over the pages of his speech, which covered broad topics such as business and tech initiatives, and appeared to skip over entire sections.
According to the source, the aim of Sunday’s televised address was to ensure the veteran leader openly declared the military’s actions to be constitutional.
Mugabe did so, but he was visibly displeased at the entire choreographed affair.
The military’s operation “did not amount to a threat to our well-cherished constitutional order, nor was it a challenge to my authority as head of state and government, not even as commander-in-chief of the Zimbabwean defense forces,” he said.
Despite having lost his power base and control of the military, Mugabe insisted he was going nowhere and even claimed he would see the ZANU-PF through its congress in a few weeks. The party is expected to ratify Mnangagwa as party leader at the event.
Zimbabweans who had been glued to state television to watch the speech live came out into the streets afterward, many in shock.
Harare resident Tina Madzimure called the speech “an embarrassment.”
“He made a fool out of the generals,” she said. “This man will go to his grave with Zimbabwe in his hands.”
Mugabe’s next move
ZANU-PF members of Parliament plan to meet at the party headquarters on Monday afternoon to discuss putting forward a motion to impeach the President.
If a vote goes to Parliament, it would almost certainly win, as the ZANU-PF dominates the National Assembly.
Mugabe is running out of cards to play and has few political allies left.
Tens of thousands of people have also protested in the streets for his ouster, a rare sight in a country where such gatherings and political expression have been banned. The voices supporting him have been far more muted, and world leaders are tacitly supporting the military’s actions.
Now cornered, he is likely looking to broker the the best deal for his exit.
According to the source who spoke to CNN, the military has given into Mugabe’s demands for full immunity for himself and his wife, Grace Mugabe, and for him to keep several of his properties.
If Mugabe does decide to resign, he must send a letter to the speaker of Parliament, who should then publicly announce the resignation within 24 hours, according to the constitution.
If his rule ends, the Parliament speaker will have to serve as an interim leader. Usually it is the vice president’s role to step in, but the country has not had one since Mnangagwa was fired earlier this month.