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 on Sunday, five days after a surprise military takeover in which he was placed under house arrest.
But in his much-anticipated TV address from his State House office, Mugabe acknowledged criticism but said the country needs to “return to normalcy” without making any statement on his position.
“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 army commanders.
“We must learn to forgive and resolve contradictions real or perceived in a comradely Zimbabwean spirit,” he added.
It was a dramatic turn of events in a week that has seen the army taking control and the streets of Harare filled with tens of thousands of people expressing support for the military’s action and calling for the president to step down.
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, who has been leading Zimbabwe for 37 years, 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 the new party leader.
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,” he said in his national address.