Mnangagwa urges Mugabe to quit as party seeks impeachment

Former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa has urged Robert Mugabe to resign, piling further pressure on the embattled Zimbabwean president as parliament begins impeachment proceedings to end his rule.

Mnangagwa, whose firing by Mugabe two weeks ago triggered the military intervention that threatens the president’s 37-year stint in power, released a public letter detailing the ‘insatiable desire’ of Zanu-PF members and the public for Mugabe to resign.

“The people of Zimbabwe have clearly spoken on this matter. To me the voice of the people is the voice of God and their lack of trust and confidence in the leadership of President Mugabe has been expressed,” he wrote.

Mnangagwa’s statement is the veteran politician’s first major public intervention since the military seized control of the country last Wednesday, and marks a further escalation in efforts to remove the premier. Zanu-PF sacked Mugabe – its leader since 1975 – on Sunday, and is expected to support parliamentary impeachment procedures following his refusal to resign in a rambling television performance later that day. 

Zanu-PF chief whip Lovemore Matuke expects that 90% of Zanu-PF MPs and 100% of opposition MPs will vote for the motion to impeach, according to Channel 4 News, in a process expected to be concluded by Thursday. The motion requires 50% support in the National Assembly and Senate to proceed to a joint investigatory committee, whose support will then trigger a further vote requiring a two-thirds majority in both houses. 

Since the army’s seizure of power, little has been heard from Mnangagwa, a veteran political operative known as ‘The Crocodile’ who is assumed to have played a powerful behind-the-scenes role in the military’s intervention. In the letter, Mnangagwa claims that he fled the country after learning of threats to his life. Prior to the coup, the 75-year old had been involved in a bitter and protracted succession battle with Grace Mugabe, the divisive second wife of the president. The military acted after Mnangagwa’s sacking appeared to smooth the path for her accession. 

Mnangagwa also used the letter to reach out to constituencies beyond Zanu-PF party loyalists. In his statement, Mnangagwa – previously known as an impeccable regime insider throughout decades of politically repressive and racially divisive one-party rule – highlights the views of students, opposition party members, civic society and “all races of colour and creed.”

“In that new Zimbabwe it is important for everyone to join hands so that we rebuild this nation to its full glory. This is not a job for Zanu PF alone but for all people of Zimbabwe,” he wrote.

Yet Mnangagwa also couched attempts to remove Mugabe in the traditional rhetoric of the struggle for independence from colonial rule.

“The legacy of our struggle to unite the land with the people and the people with their land championed by our war veterans and our people defended by the gallant fighters of the Defence Forces, Civil Servants, The Judiciary and Our Government can be saved if His Excellency choses to do the right thing…now that they have spoken he must now accept the will of the people and resign.”

David Thomas