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Robert Mugabe Shocks Country By Not Resigning

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Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has resisted mounting pressure to step down, telling the nation that he will preside over a ruling party congress next month.

The 93-year-old Zimbabwean leader had been widely expected to announce his resignation as Zimbabwe’s head of state and government, five days after a surprise military takeover in which he was placed under house arrest.

But in a much-anticipated TV address from his State House office late on Sunday, Mugabe instead said Zimbabwe needs to “return to normalcy”.

It was a dramatic turn of events in the political turmoil that has gripped Zimbabwe since the army’s intervention on Wednesday.

Earlier on Sunday, there were jubilant scenes at the ZANU-PF headquarters in Harare as the ruling party announced the expulsion of Mugabe as its leader and gave him a Monday noon ultimatum to step down as president, or face impeachment.

ZANU-PF officials said Mugabe would face impeachment proceedings in parliament on Tuesday if the deadline passed.

Party members also expelled his wife, Grace, from its ranks and voted to name the sacked Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, whom Mugabe fired on November 6, as new party leader.

The ZANU-PF’s moves came a day after tens of thousands of people took to the streets to express support for the military’s action and call for the president’s removal.

But in his national address, following a meeting with military commanders, the veteran leader acknowledged criticism but made no reference to the calls for him to resign.

“Whatever the pros and cons of how they [the army] went about their operation, I, as commander-in-chief, do acknowledge their concerns,” said Mugabe, seated alongside the army commanders who were behind the military’s action in the early hours of Wednesday.

“We must learn to forgive and resolve contradictions real or perceived in a comradely Zimbabwean spirit,” he added.

Despite having been dismissed as ZANU-PF’s leader, Mugabe vowed to preside over a key party conference in December.

“The party congress is due in a few weeks and I will preside over its processes,” said Mugabe.

‘Surprise and disbelief’

Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa, reporting from Zimbabwe’s capital, Harare, said “a lot of people are surprised” Mugabe did not step down “after all this pressure”.

“There is no celebration on the streets, just disbelief,” she said.

“Sources behind the scenes say that he is being stubborn and for now he isn’t going anywhere,” added Mutasa.

“It could be a plan he’s working on to exit gracefully, or it could also be that he doesn’t understand there is such a massive unhappiness,” she added, noting all eyes would now be on the Monday midday deadline.

Georgina Godwin, a Zimbabwean journalist, pointed to the presence of army officials next to Mugabe to argue that his speech had been approved by the military.

“I’m sure the army must have agreed to this – all the generals were sitting there,” she said from Britain’s capital, London.

“This is the way to have a dignified exit.”

Source: Al Jazeera

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