(HARARE, Zimbabwe) — Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwean President, who at 93 is the world’s oldest head of state, is not planning on giving up his 37-year rule anytime soon.
He ignored a noon deadline Monday to resign or face impeachment proceedings. The army, which took de facto control of the country last Wednesday, has him under house arrest and he has been fired by his own party, the Zanu PF. All but his most loyal supporters have deserted him, but he continues to insist he has the solutions to the issues faced by his country.
“The country is at a crossroads,” Dr. Bright Matonga, a former government spokesperson, told ABC News. “People feel that President Mugabe is holding the country to ransom. He is refusing to stand down.”
Mugabe was put under house arrest last Wednesday after a bloodless takeover of power by the military. He was expected to resign during a TV address to the nation conducted in front of a phalanx of dour-faced Army generals, the very same group who had been holding him for days, but he apparently didn’t follow the script. Instead, he made a long speech in which he acknowledged that the country had problems, but made clear he still saw himself in control.
“Whatever the pros and cons of the way they went about registering those concerns, I as the President of Zimbabwe and as the commander-in-chief do acknowledge the issues they have drawn my attention to and do believe that these were raised in the spirit of honesty and out of a deep and patriotic concern for the stability of our nation” President Robert Mugabe in TV address to nation.
Mugabe held control for 37 years, despite an almost complete economic collapse. He has been the country’s only leader since independence in 1980, widely known as a ruthless dictator since he took power along with his Zanu PF party. He has been known for alleged brutal crackdowns on the opposition, cronyism and corruption. In one of his most recent scandals, he is said to have tried to fire his vice president in a move toward installing his wife, Grace, in the role.
Observers in the country’s general elections agreed he and his party lost previously, but he continued to stay in power. In his speech last week, he continued to say he was in control.
“The [Zanu-PF] congress is due in a few weeks from now,” Mugabe continued. “I’ll preside over its process which must not be prepossessed by any acts calculated to undermine it or to compromise the outcomes in the eyes of the public.”
The army took control of the country last Wednesday, which had all the appearance of a coup, but was a “democratic adjustment,” according to the army, to deal with criminal elements amongst the people around Mugabe.
On Tuesday, Parliament will move to start the impeachment process. With a simple majority vote and the establishment of a nine-member cross party “investigative committee,” which will decide if the grounds for impeachment are met, the assembly could vote as soon as Wednesday.
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