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Zimbabwe opposition leader 'baffled' by Mugabe decision to stay

The leader of Zimbabwe’s liberation war veterans said plans to impeach Mugabe would now go ahead.

Zimbabwe's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader Morgan Tsvangirai at a press conference on 16 November 2017 in Harare. Picture: AFP.

HARARE - Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said he was “baffled” by President Robert Mugabe’s address to the nation on Sunday when the veteran leader defied widespread expectations that he would resign.

“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.

Zimbabwe's former Finance Minister Tendai Biti says he hopes President Robert Mugabe will heed the call and step down as president of the country.

“Mugabe should do the right thing and leave. He should have sense that he should leave the people of Zimbabwe to start afresh, so what he’s doing is just humiliating himself. The man is shameless.”

Biti says Zimbabwe still faces a battle to remove Mugabe as president even though he's been ousted as Zanu-pf leader.

“It means nothing constitutionally because there are challenges to remove him as head of state and president, so he can be removed from Zanu-PF but it doesn’t mean that he’s removed as the president of this country. That’s the legal hurdle that we have to deal with.”

Two sources, one a senior member of the government, the other familiar with talks with leaders of the military, had told Reuters Mugabe would use the address to announce his resignation after Zanu-PF earlier sacked him as its leader in a step precipitated by an army takeover four days earlier.

But in the speech from his official residence, sitting alongside a row of generals, Mugabe acknowledged criticisms from Zanu-PF, the military and the public, but made no mention of his own position, instead pledging to preside over the Zanu-PF congress scheduled for next month.

Zanu-PF had given the 93-year-old, who led his country to indepndence in 1980, less than 24 hours to quit as head of state or face impeachment, an attempt to secure a peaceful end to his tenure after a de facto military coup.

The leader of Zimbabwe’s liberation war veterans said plans to impeach Mugabe would now go ahead.

Chris Mutsvangwa, who has been leading a campaign to oust Mugabe, told Reuters in a text message moment after Mugabe finished his speech that people would take to the streets of Harare on Wednesday.

Zanu-PF’s central committee had earlier named Emmerson Mnangagwa as its new leader. It was Mugabe’s sacking of Mnangagwa as his vice-president, to pave the way for his wife Grace to succeed him, that triggered the army’s intervention.

On Saturday, hundreds of thousands took to the streets of the capital Harare to celebrate Mugabe’s downfall and hail a new era for their country.

'READY TO DIE'

On Saturday, men, women and children ran alongside the armoured cars and troops who stepped in to target what the army called “criminals” in Mugabe’s inner circle.

Meanwhile, the man himself remained under house arrest in his lavish “Blue Roof” compound, watching the support from his party, security services and people evaporate.

Speaking from a secret location in South Africa, his nephew, Patrick Zhuwao, told Reuters Mugabe and his wife were “ready to die for what is correct” rather than step down in order to legitimise what he described as a coup.

Zhuwao, who was also sanctioned by Zanu-PF, did not answer his phone on Sunday. However, Mugabe’s son Chatunga railed against those who had pushed out his father.

“You can’t fire a Revolutionary leader!” he wrote on this Facebook page. “Zanu-PF is nothing without President Mugabe.”

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