Mugabe vows to stay on despite party pressure

(BBC) – Zimbabwe’s embattled leader Robert Mugabe has vowed to stay in power for several weeks, despite mounting calls for him to stand down now.

In a live TV address, Mr Mugabe said he would preside over the ruling party’s congress in December.

Zanu-PF earlier sacked him as party leader, and gave him less than 24 hours to resign as president or be impeached.

His grip on power has weakened since the military intervened on Wednesday, in a row over who should succeed him.

The crisis began when the 93-year-old president sacked his deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa, two weeks ago, angering army commanders who saw it as an attempt to position his wife as his successor.

President Mugabe acknowledged criticism from Zanu-PF, the military and public, and stressed the need to return Zimbabwe to normality.

“Whatever the pros and cons of how they [the army] went about their operation, I, as commander-in-chief, do acknowledge their concerns,” he said, in reference to the army’s move last week to take over the state broadcaster.

The BBC’s Africa Editor, Fergal Keane, said his understanding of the situation was that Mr Mugabe had agreed to resign, but then changed his mind.

In his stumbling, 20-minute address, Robert Mugabe made no mention of the deafening calls, from the public and from his own party, to resign as president.

Instead, he declared that the military had done nothing wrong, by seizing power, and placing him under house arrest earlier in the week.

The 93-year-old, reading from notes, and often losing his place, then implied he would remain Zimbabwe’s leader at least until next month’s Zanu-PF congress, ignoring the fact that earlier he was stripped of any official role within the party.

He did acknowledge failings, and factionalism in the government and party but made no mention of his wife, Grace, who was expelled from the party.

Quite where this leaves the political stalemate here is unclear. Zanu-PF has vowed to impeach Mr Mugabe if he doesn’t resign by noon (10:00 GMT) on Monday.

Mr Mugabe is clearly playing for time. But Zimbabwe’s military leadership is now at odds with the newly purged governing party. Public frustration is growing. And a dangerously unpredictable standoff has now been prolonged.


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