Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has been formally dismissed as the leader of the country’s ruling party, Zanu-PF, and replaced by the vice president he previously sacked, Emmerson ‘Crocodile’ Mnangagwa.
It followed all ten Zimbabwean provinces passing no-confidence motions against the dictator on Friday. Although Mr Mugabe technically remains president, the fact that he no longer leads his party means that the end is almost certainly in sight for his 37-year reign.
The development placed Mr Mnangagwa within touching distance of the presidency, delayed only by Mr Mugabe’s continued refusal to step down.
There is widespread speculation that Mr Mugabe will officially resign late on Sunday after a crunch meeting with the head of Zimbabwe’s armed forces.
He has so far given little sign of capitulating, however, instead resisting the massive pressure from all sides by staging a hunger strike, making threats and refusing to speak at his Blue Roof home.
The dictator’s hated wife, ‘Gucci’ Grace, has also been expelled from her role as head of the Zanu-PF Women’s League.
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe was fired as leader of the ruling ZANU-PF party and replaced by Emmerson Mnangagwa, the vice president he fired earlier this month. Mnangagwa, the former state security chief, is in line to head an interim post-Mugabe unity government that will focus on rebuilding ties with the outside world and stabilising an economy in freefall.
Zimbabwean War Veterans leader Chris Mutsvangwa (center) greets other delegates ahead of Zanu-PF meeting to dismiss Mugabe from his role as party leader
Delegates raise their fists as they replace Mugabe with Emmerson ‘Crocodile’ Mnangagwa as leader of the Zanu-PF ruling party
While Mugabe has been removed from his role of Zanu-PF party leader, his title as Zimbabwean president remains. Pictured above, delegates attend a meeting on Sunday to dismiss Mugabe as leader
Also at the meeting (delegates greeting one another pictured above), Mugabe’s hated wife, ‘Gucci’ Grace, was expelled from her role as head of the Zanu-PF Women’s League
Mnangagwa, the former state security chief, is in line to head an interim post-Mugabe unity government that will focus on rebuilding ties with the outside world and stabilising an economy in freefall.
While Mugabe has been removed from his role of Zanu-PF party leader, his title as Zimbabwean president remains.
Impeaching the president is the next step when Parliament resumes Tuesday, and lawmakers will ‘definitely’ put the process in motion, the main opposition’s parliamentary chief whip told The Associated Press.
It comes as MailOnline exclusively revealed that the elderly dictator had gone on hunger strike. One of his close family members confirmed that he was refusing to eat as a strategic ploy.
The frail 93-year-old Mugabe has not accepted any food since Saturday, the source revealed, as he continues to be held under house arrest at his Blue Roof mansion.
Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao said on Saturday that Mr Mugabe was ‘willing to die for what is correct’.
A Zanu-PF minister confirmed to MailOnline that Mr Mugabe is also refusing to speak as part of his days-long protest.
‘The old man has been trying a lot of various tricks since last night,’ the minister, who asked not to be named, said. ‘Hunger strikes, making threats and refusing to talk.’
Mugabe on Sunday is set to discuss his expected exit with army commander Constantino Chiwenga, who put him under the house arrest that he is protesting with a hunger strike.
‘We are going all the way,’ Mutsvangwa, who has led the campaign to oust Zimbabwe’s ruler of the last 37 years, said as he headed into the meeting, adding that Mugabe should just resign and leave the country. ‘He’s trying to bargain for a dignified exit but he should just smell the coffee.’
Zanu-PF Central Committee members stood and cheered as the official chairing the emergency meeting announced plans to remove Mugabe from his leadership post on Sunday.
Obert Mpofu told the committee that they were meeting with ‘a heavy heart’ because Mugabe had served the country and contributed ‘many memorable achievements’.
But Mpofu said in his opening remarks that Mugabe’s wife ‘and close associates have taken advantage of his frail condition’ to loot national resources. The party will also discuss reinstating recently fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
The army threatened to let a mob lynch the dictator if he didn’t stand down, MailOnline revealed on Saturday. Now Mugabe has responded by rejecting all food.
‘If he dies under military custody, even by natural causes, then the army will be held responsible by the international community,’ the family member, who asked not to be named, said. ‘That is how the president is trying to put pressure on the army.’
The family member also said that Grace Mugabe was by her husband’s side at the Blue Roof mansion yesterday, and is thought to still be there today.
The meeting follows rumours that the dictator had fled the country after hundreds of thousands took to the streets to protest against his rule.
Video footage from protests obtained exclusively by MailOnline showed angry crowds tearing down a huge billboard of Mugabe outside the headquarters of the ruling Zanu-PF party in central Harare.
The footage shows dramatic scenes that would have been unthinkable just a few days ago.
While Mugabe has been removed as party leader, his title as president of Zimbabwe remains.
He can only be removed from his presidency through resignation or impeachment, launched through a constitutional process.
‘What is left is just the technical detail of how he’s going to leave,’ former Zimbabwean finance minister Tendai Biti told Sky News. ‘Even if Zanu-PF does remove him – if they do have the power, which i doubt – that doesn’t amount to removing him as president of the country.
‘There has to be formal processes – either his own resignation or an impeachment.’
Mugabe’s talks with army commander Constantino Chiwenga on Sunday are the second round of negotiations on an exit with a veneer of dignity as the military tries to avoid accusations of a coup.
Zanu-PF moved forward with the process of formally expelling Mr Mugabe from the party after all ten of Zimbabwe’s provinces passed no-confidence motions against him on Friday.
Sunday’s talks did not appear to include the South African government delegation that took part in the first round. South Africa’s president on Saturday said talks are in ‘early days’.
The southern African regional bloc will hold a four-country summit in Angola on Tuesday to discuss the Zimbabwe situation.
Innocent Gonese with the MDC-T party said they had been in discussions with the ruling ZANU-PF party to act jointly.
Gonese said of the talks: ‘If Mugabe is not gone by Tuesday, then as sure as the sun rises from the east, impeachment process will kick in.’
The MDC-T has unsuccessfully tried to impeach Mugabe in the past, but now the ruling party has turned against him.
Ahead of Sunday’s meetings, the youth league of Zanu-PF called for Mugabe to resign and take a rest as an ‘elder statesman’, while his wife, Grace, should be expelled from the party ‘forever.’
Youth league leader Yeukai Simbanegavi praises the military for moving against what she describes as a group of ‘criminals’ led by Grace Mugabe.
‘It is unfortunate that the president allowed her to usurp executive authority from him, thereby destroying both the party and the government,’ Simbanegavi said at ruling party headquarters on Sunday.
The army has also brought intense pressure to bear upon the 93-year-old, threatening to stand aside and allow him to be lynched if he does not stand down soon, a senior politician told MailOnline.
Mutsvangwa that that he is concerned that the military could end up opening fire to protect Mugabe from protesters. He says there will be more demonstrations like the massive one Saturday if Mugabe’s negotiations with the military on his departure from power don’t end soon.
He hopes Mugabe ‘gives into the fact that he has got to tender his resignation and leave’.
‘We would expect that Mugabe would not have the prospect of the military shooting at people, trying to defend him,’ Mutsvangwa said. ‘The choice is his.’
Zimbabweans carried their country’s flag and chanted ‘remove the dictator’ and ‘Mugabe, our country is not your property’ as they voiced their demand for him to leave office after 37 years in power
Some in the crowd also voiced their support for sacked vice-president Emmanuel ‘Crocodile’ Mnangagwa, the favourite to become the next leader, by shouting ‘Ngwena, Ngwena’, or ‘Crocodile, Crocodile’, in support of sacked vice-president Emmanuel ‘Crocodile’ Mnangagwa
Mugabe has been given an ultimatum of 24 hours to resign by the powerful National Liberation War Veterans Association
‘The army is threatening to unleash the people and let Mugabe be lynched. The generals said they will not shoot the people for him. Instead, they will abandon their posts and leave him to his fate.’
Mr Mutsvangwa added: ‘At first, the army was holding him prisoner. Now they are protecting him from the people.’
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Harare on Saturday in a historic show of unity to demand an end to the 37-year reign of dictator Robert Mugabe.
Military helicopters flew low overhead as huge crowds marched into the centre of the capital city, waving Zimbabwean flags and chanting ‘remove the dictator’ and ‘Mugabe, our country is not your property’.
It was an unprecedented show of defiance and unity in this notoriously divided country, as ordinary Zimbabweans from across the political spectrum came together as one to oppose the dictator.
Some protesters shouted ‘Ngwena, Ngwena’, or ‘Crocodile, Crocodile’, in support of sacked vice-president Emmanuel ‘Crocodile’ Mnangagwa, the favourite to become the next leader.
Fiery speeches were delivered at the Harare football stadium to a crowd of hundreds of thousands after a day of chaotic anti-Mugabe parades through the city.
Robert Mugabe at the student graduation ceremony at Zimbabwe Open University on the outskirts of Harare, his last public appearance
Zimbabweans from all party of society came together in a show of unity to demand the removal of President Robert Mugabe
Members of the powerful war veterans, traditionally a source of support for Mugabe, stand guard at the stage prior to the mass action protests
Several speakers shouted ‘Viva Zimbabwe’, to prolonged cheers and singing from the crowds, mixed with blasts of music over the loudspeakers.
‘Mugabe and his typist-cum-wife must go home,’ said Victor Matemadanda, the Secretary-General of the Powerful War Veterans’ Association.
‘Let’s go and take back the country from the State House.’
He added: ‘If he’s not at the State House, let’s go to the Blue Roof,’ referring to Mr Mugabe’s £7.5million mansion where he is under house arrest.
Oppah Muchinguri Kashiri, the country’s environment minister who was Mr Mugabe’s girlfriend in the Eighties and Nineties and has had physical fights with his wife Grace, said:
‘I thank you all for being resolute. Now let’s remain focussed and finish what we started. Let’s take Mugabe with a strong grip and remove him.’
The mass show of defiance comes as Mugabe has been dramatically thrown out of his own party after all ten provinces of Zimbabwe passed a no-confidence motion in the dictator.
It makes it almost impossible for him to continue to cling to power. The decision will be ratified on Sunday and put into effect next week.
Frank Mutsindikwa, 34, said: ‘These are tears of joy. I’ve been waiting all my life for this day. Free at last. We are free at last.’
Crowds gathered at football pitches close to the city centre and marched towards Freedom Square, in Harare
Ecstatic crowds marched through central Harare, cheering and hugging soldiers, honking horns, dancing, and singing
Even formerly loyal party members openly called Mr Mugabe a ‘dictator’ and united their efforts in trying to force him to stand down
During protests Saturday, ecstatic crowds marched through central Harare, cheering and hugging soldiers, honking horns, dancing, and singing: ‘Bob, you have sold out the country, remember we are the ones who put you there and we are now removing you.’
Ordinary Zimbabweans said they felt like they were dreaming after the 37-year-old dictatorship crumbled before their eyes.
‘It’s like Christmas,’ said one marcher, Fred Mubay, who said Zimbabweans have been suffering for a long time.
Saturday’s protest represented a turning point for the southern African state, where for four decades the public criticism of Mr Mugabe has been met with brutal punishment and even death.
It came as Mr Mugabe was given an ultimatum of 24 hours to resign by the powerful National Liberation War Veterans Association. In a press conference, a spokesman for the group mocked the elderly dictator, saying: ‘Mugabe has no war background. He only came to the Front once. The closest Mugabe ever was to the fighting was 400km away.’
During the dictator’s rule, forced rallies were often staged to support him. By comparison, everybody attended Saturday’s march of their own free will and there was not a single counter-protestor coming out in support of Mr Mugabe.
One of the marchers said ‘it was like Christmas’. Jubilant protesters ride on top of a bus in the streets of Harare
There was a festive atmosphere on the streets of Harare where people seemed overjoyed at the prospect of Mugabe finally being forced out of power
Buses were laid on by the Zanu-PF to ferry thousands of people to the capital to take part in the protest
Some of the money for mobilising demonstrators was provided by the army, which spearheaded the attempt to remove Mugabe
There were fears that Saturday’s event may degenerate into violence, as happened in 2013 when crowds went on the rampage in Harare after an opposition rally.
The march began in a spirit of harmony, however, and the sense of liberation from the shackles of the dictator’s secret police was tangible.
Crowds gathered at football pitches close to the city centre and marched towards Freedom Square, formerly known as the Robert Mugabe Square, where a number of political leaders from all parties were to address demonstrators.
The historic rally was all the more remarkable for having been organised by Mr Mugabe’s own party, the Zanu-PF, which until Tuesday had treated the despot like a god.
All that changed Saturday as formerly loyal party members openly called Mr Mugabe a ‘dictator’ and united their efforts in trying to force him to stand down.
Activists armed with megaphones toured towns and villages all over the country in Zanu-PF branded vehicles, calling for as many people to attend the demonstration as possible.
Opposition parties followed the Zanu-PF’s lead, mobilising their grassroots network to ensure a major turnout amongst their own supporters.
It is thought that some of the money for mobilising demonstrators was provided by the army, which spearheaded the dramatic attempt to remove Mr Mugabe.
Buses were laid on by the Zanu-PF to ferry thousands of people to the capital to take part in the protest, thought to be the biggest demonstration of its kind in Zimbabwean history.
Mr Mugabe, meanwhile, remained defiant in his Blue Roof mansion, refusing to step down despite the massive pressure heaped upon him by his political rivals, foreign leaders and now his own people.