HARARE, Zimbabwe (NEWS 1130) – Zimbabwe’s president, Robert Mugabe, has delivered a long speech in which he was expected to announce his resignation.
He never said the actual words. Instead, the 93-year-old pledged to address the concerns of the military and ruling party. ‘I thank you and good night,’ Mugabe said.
The military earlier placed Mugabe under house arrest and today his party expelled him as its leader.
Mugabe says the people must not be guided by bitterness. He plans to preside over the party’s conference in several weeks.
The news comes hours after the ruling party’s Central Committee fired Mugabe as party leader and said if he didn’t resign as the country’s president by noon Monday it would start impeachment proceedings.
It is an extraordinary end to 37 years in power for the world’s oldest head of state, who had vowed to rule until death.
Mugabe tried to buy time in negotiations with the military on a dignified exit but quickly found himself isolated.
Tens of thousands of people poured into the streets of the capital Saturday to demand that Mugabe, one of Africa’s last remaining liberation leaders, step aside after overseeing the once-prosperous country’s economic collapse.
They clambered onto tanks moving slowly through the crowds, took selfies with soldiers and surged in the thousands toward the State House building where Mugabe held official functions, a symbol of the rule of the man who took power after independence from white minority rule in 1980.
The euphoria came after years of watching the once-prosperous African nation fall into decay, with repression of free speech, disputed elections and international sanctions.
Even as concerns remained about who next would be in charge and what freedoms might be available if the military lingers in power, people reveled in the rare chance to express themselves freely.
Let us have this moment, Zimbabweans said. If the next leader becomes trouble, they vowed to return to the streets again.
The deputy Mugabe fired, former Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, is poised to be Zimbabwe’s next leader after the Central Committee made him its nominee to take over when Mugabe goes.