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Africa

Defiant Mugabe fails to resign in TV address

© AFP PHOTO / ZBC | Video grab of ZBC footage of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe's Nov. 19, 2017 televised address.

Video by Ayesha ISMAIL

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2017-11-20

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe stressed he was still in power in a much-awaited address to the nation Sunday evening, defying a call by the country’s ruling party to resign.

In an address broadcast live on the state-run ZBC TV, Mugabe pledged to preside over the ZANU-PF party congress next month even though the party had removed him as its leader hours earlier.

Flanked by a row of generals, Mugabe acknowledged “a whole range of concerns from you all, citizens of our great country,” but he stressed that they “did not amount to a threat to the constitutional order nor a challenge to my authority as head of government, not even as commander of the Zimbabwean defence forces.

Referring to next month’s ZANU-PF congress, Mugabe noted, "The congress is due in a few weeks from now. I will preside over its processes, which must not be possessed by any acts calculated to undermine it or compromise the outcomes in the eyes of the public."

Calling on Zimbabweans to “refocus” on solving the problems facing the nation, Mugabe noted that, “We are generally a peaceably disposed people, resolving differences by ourselves with a level of dignity, discipline and restraint so rare in other nations.”

‘He is playing games’

Mugabe’s defiant speech came as a shock for Zimbabweans who gathered around their TV sets, expecting a resignation announcement after an eventful day.

“Zimbabweans that I spoke to, and sat with, while listening to President Robert Mugabe’s speech were completely disappointed. They expected him to announce his resignation and when he didn’t, they went completely silent,” said FRANCE 24’s Ayesha Ismail, reporting from the Zimbabwean capital, Harare. “Where I am, the streets are deserted and I think people are still digesting the president’s speech.”

Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said he was "baffled” by the statement. "I am baffled. It's not just me, it's the whole nation. He's playing a game. He has let the whole nation down," Tsvangirai told Reuters.

"He is playing games with the people of Zimbabwe. He agrees to go and then plays games with us like that at the last minute," said Victor Matemadanda, secretary general of the country's war veterans association.

Meanwhile Chris Mutsvangwa, head of the country's liberation war veterans who has been leading a campaign to oust Mugabe, said plans to impeach the 93-year-old president who has ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years would go ahead as scheduled. He also said people would take to the streets of the capital, Harare, on Wednesday.

Goodbye ‘Gucci Grace’

Mugabe's defiant statement came hours after ZANU-PF dismissed Mugabe as party leader and issued the 93-year-old politician an ultimatum to resign by noon Monday or face impeachment.

Mugabe's 52-year-old wife, Grace – dubbed “Gucci Grace” for her penchant for expensive shopping sprees – who had harboured ambitions of succeeding her husband, was also expelled from ZANU-PF.

Several high-level party members close to the first lady, who had formed the backbone of her "G40" political faction, were also told to resign or face impeachment.

Those expelled include minister of higher education Jonathan Moyo, finance minister Ignatious Chombo, Mugabe's nephew Patrick Zhuwao, as well as foreign affairs minister Walter Mzembi and several other top ZANU-PF members who were associated with the first lady.

Some 200 delegates clapped and cheered the announcement and sent up an especially loud roar on hearing the action against Grace Mugabe.

Few hopes for democratic reform

Despite the euphoria on the streets of Harare over the weekend, some Mugabe opponents are uneasy about the prominent role played by the military, and fear Zimbabwe might be swapping one army-backed autocrat for another, rather than allowing the people to choose their next leader.

"The real danger of the current situation is that having got their new preferred candidate into State House, the military will want to keep him or her there, no matter what the electorate wills," former education minister David Coltart said.

Besides changing its leadership, ZANU-PF said it wanted to change the constitution to reduce the power of the president, a possible sign of its desire to move towards a more pluralistic and inclusive political system.

However, Mnangagwa's history as state security chief during the so-called Gukurahundi crackdown, when an estimated 20,000 people were killed by the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade in Matabeleland in the early 1980s, suggested that quick, sweeping change was unlikely.

"The deep state that engineered this change of leadership will remain, thwarting any real democratic reform," said Miles Tendi, a Zimbabwean academic at Oxford University.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AP)

Date created : 2017-11-19

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