In Summary
  • Robert Mugabe was sacked as Zanu-PF party leader on Sunday and replaced by his former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
  • Many had expected him to resign following news that he would hold a press conference on Sunday night.

HARARE,

Robert Mugabe clung on as Zimbabwe's president Sunday, using national TV to insist he still holds power despite a military takeover and mounting pressure for his autocratic 37-year rule to end.

Crowds who gathered in bars and cafes in Harare to watch the address, which was widely expected would end in the 93-year-old's resignation, were left stunned and disconsolate.

WEEPING

Some wept openly.

"The (ruling ZANU-PF) party congress is due in a few weeks and I will preside over its processes," Mugabe said.

His words pitched the country into deep uncertainty, as they imply he will seek to stay in office until at least mid-December.

It was widely thought that Mugabe would have no choice but to go after the army seized power, opened the floodgates of citizen protest and his once-loyal party told him to quit.

But Mugabe, sitting alongside the uniformed generals who were behind the military intervention, delivered a speech that suggested he was unfazed by the turmoil.

Speaking slowly and occasionally stumbling as he read from the pages, Mugabe talked of the need for solidarity to resolve national problems — business-as-usual rhetoric that he has deployed over decades.

He made no reference to the chorus calling for him to resign and shrugged off last week's dramatic military intervention.

VIOLENCE

"The operation I have alluded to did not amount to a threat to our well-cherished constitutional order nor did it challenge my authority as head of state, not even as commander in chief," he said.

Instead he urged harmony and comradeship.

"Whatever the pros and cons of how they (the army) went about their operation, I... do acknowledge their concerns," said Mugabe.

"We must learn to forgive and resolve contradictions, real or perceived, in a comradely Zimbabwean spirit."

His address provoked immediate anger, and raised concerns that Zimbabwe could be at risk of a violent reaction to the political tensions.

"People should go back on to the streets. This is not fair," said a security guard in Harare who declined to be named.

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