HARARE – In a dramatic twist of events, all the ten Zanu PF provinces have passed a vote of no confidence on President Robert Mugabe, and declared the 93 year-old leader – who has been in office for 37 years – too old and incapacitated to lead both Zanu PF and government.
The move, which comes at the height of a drama-filled week that saw the military taking control of the country, is a huge knock on the veteran’s leader’s prospects of retaining his presidency for much longer.
Tomorrow, Mugabe’s long-time allies, the war veterans, are hosting a national rally in Harare, where Zimbabweans from various political parties, religions and elsewhere are expected to attend.
Mugabe on Friday attended a university graduation ceremony, making a defiant first public appearance since a military takeover that appeared to signal the end of his 37-year reign.
Mugabe, 93, had been confined to house arrest after the military took over the nation, but yesterday he walked into the ceremony venue in Harare dressed in a blue academic gown and tasseled hat, before listening to speeches with his eyes closed and applauding occasionally, a correspondent reported.
The generals took over late on Tuesday after former Zimbabwean vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa was abruptly sacked and Mugabe’s wife, Grace, emerged in prime position to succeed her increasingly frail husband.
Mugabe has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980.
Many citizens were stunned by the military’s intervention, sparked by the bitter succession battle between Grace Mugabe and Mnangagwa.
Analysts say the military leadership was strongly opposed to the rise of Robert Mugabe’s ambitious 52-year-old wife, while Mnangagwa has close ties to the defense establishment.
Robert Mugabe and the army chiefs held talks on Thursday, but no official statement has been issued on the status of negotiations that could see him eased out of office.
State-run television showed Robert Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state, at Thursday’s talks standing smiling alongside Army General Constantino Chiwenga.
Mnangagwa, 75, was previously one of Robert Mugabe’s most loyal lieutenants, having worked alongside him for decades, but he fled to South Africa following his dismissal and published a scathing rebuke of Robert Mugabe’s leadership and Grace Mugabe’s presidential ambitions.
The military yesterday said it had detained some “criminals” in Robert Mugabe’s government in a reference to supporters of Grace Mugabe’s presidential ambitions.
Grace Mugabe has not been seen since the military takeover, which has not overtly called for Robert Mugabe’s resignation.
Many Zimbabweans have either welcomed the army’s intervention or are indifferent to it.
“We needed change. Our situation has been pathetic,” said Keresenzia Moyo, a 65-year-old housewife in Harare.
Former Zimbabwean prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai, a long-time opponent of Robert Mugabe, told journalists in Harare on Thursday that Robert Mugabe must resign “in the interest of the people.”
He added that “a transitional mechanism” would be needed to ensure stability.
Former Zimbabwean minister of finance Tendai Biti, who served during the coalition government after the 2008 elections, called it “a very delicate time for Zimbabwe.”
“A way has to be worked out to maintain stability,” Biti said.