JOHANNESBURG — Zimbabwe’s ruling party expects to start impeachment proceedings against longtime President Robert Mugabe in parliament Tuesday, after he failed to meet a deadline set by the party for him to step down.
Mugabe has clung to the presidency amid increasing pressure from party leaders, much of the public and the military, which took control of the country last week and arrested most of his allies. Party officials wanted him to resign by noon Monday.
The president has been stripped of executive power and confined to his house. The generals who took control hoped that by offering Mugabe safety for his family and a dignified exit, he would step down once it became clear he lacked the support to remain as leader, but he has rebuffed the offer.
The ZANU-PF party will move for impeachment on grounds of misconduct and failure to uphold the constitution. A draft of the motion claims Mugabe, who has been president for 37 years, abrogated his constitutional powers to his wife, Grace, who is deeply unpopular.
Of ZANU-PF’s 250 lawmakers, all but 20 at a caucus meeting Monday endorsed the impeachment motion, according to party chairman Simon Khaya-Moyo.
The party dismissed Mugabe as its leader and voted in Mugabe’s rival, Emmerson Mnangagwa, whom he sacked as vice president this month.
Mugabe, 93, addressed the nation on television Sunday night in a statement during which he was widely expected to announce his resignation. Instead, he said he expected to preside over a party congress next month.
A simple majority of a joint sitting of both houses of parliament is needed to commence impeachment proceedings. This is followed by a parliamentary investigation and finally an impeachment vote, which requires a two-thirds majority of a joint sitting of both houses.
Zimbabwe’s military command wants to maintain a veneer of legitimacy, insisting its intervention is legal and does not breach the constitution. But it also wants a swift, clean exit, which Mugabe is resisting.
ZANU-PF believes opposition lawmakers will support an impeachment motion, guaranteeing its passage. If successful, the motion would enable Zimbabwe’s military to reinforce its claim that the president’s removal did not breach the constitution.
There are three grounds for impeachment: serious misconduct; violation of the constitution or a failure to uphold it; or inability to do the job because of physical or mental incapacity.
During impeachment proceedings, Mugabe must be given an opportunity to respond to accusations against him, posing the risk he could try to drag out proceedings or air embarrassing allegations about ZANU-PF and military figures. However, ZANU-PF is expected to try to rush the motion through the parliament in a bid to oust him swiftly.
Mugabe appears determined to refuse to do anything that would legitimize the military’s attempts to remove him. By refusing to co-operate, Mugabe risks angering the military, which may act against his wife and launch proceedings to confiscate the family’s wealth.
“We will not leave parliament tomorrow until the impeachment process is completed!” one ZANU-PF lawmaker, Terence Mukupe, a former investment banker, tweeted.
Chris Mutsvangwa, leader of the Zimbabwe war veterans’ association, called for Mugabe to leave power immediately. He called on Zimbabweans to stage a mass march Tuesday to Mugabe’s residence to increase the pressure on him to go.
ZANU-PF deputy legal secretary Paul Mangwana said Monday the government needed the support of 73 opposition members of parliament for the impeachment motion to succeed. He suggested the impeachment vote could take place Wednesday.
London-based analyst Alex T. Magaisa said the process was not as straightforward as some assumed.
“While fast-tracking the process to achieve the desired outcome is what most people would prefer in the present circumstances, this process cannot be achieved in 24 hours or even a week as has been suggested,” he wrote in a blog post. “It might not be as quick as people want.”
Magaisa said officials had a duty to protect the president’s rights or it would set a dangerous precedent.
“As experiences elsewhere demonstrate, impeachment proceedings are not a simple one-day or one-week affair. Should the president’s constitutional rights and principles of natural justice be flouted, he may well challenge the process in a court of law,” Magaisa said.
Although Mnangagwa was voted in as party leader, he has no government position after Mugabe sacked him as vice president. The remaining vice president, a close ally of Mugabe, Phelekezela Mphoko, is out of the country.
Under the constitution, if Mugabe were to stand down or be impeached, Mphoko would take over as acting president, but this would likely be unacceptable to the Mnangagwa faction, which has seized control of ZANU-PF.
Mnangagwa’s supporters appear to be casting around for means to reverse Mnangagwa’s dismissal by Mugabe so that he can take the reins of government rather than Mphoko. The war veterans’ association, closely allied to Mnangagwa, said Monday that Mugabe’s dismissal of Mnangagwa was illegal because the vice president never received a formal dismissal notice.
Mutsvangwa, of the war veterans’ association, said that under Mugabe the intelligence service and police had fallen prey to interference by a faction in the ruling party close to the president’s wife, known as G40.
Several members of G40, including higher education minister Jonathan Moyo, political commissar Saviour Kasukuwere and finance minister Ignatius Chombo, have been arrested. There was no word on whether they have been charged.
Chombo is reported to own more than 100 properties and 15 cars, according to a divorce claim filed in court filed by his estranged wife and reported in the state-owned Herald newspaper.
“The worst thing is that the two frontline security agencies which should have handled this situation ahead were heavily infiltrated by the cabal of the G40,” said Mutsvangwa. “The frontline role is usually done by the police and the intelligence services and these two institutions had been infiltrated.”
“Clearly a vacuum of loyalty in the administration of the country had been created.”
Students at the University of Harare on Monday staged a protest calling for the vice chancellor Levi Nyagura to step down, after he awarded a philosophy doctorate to Grace Mugabe in 2014.