Latest: Zimbabwe's ruling party to meet after Robert Mugabe ignores quit ultimatum

Update 11.55: Zimbabwe's ruling party members have been summoned to a meeting on Monday afternoon as talk of impeaching longtime President Robert Mugabe continues, according to the country's state-run broadcaster.

Mr Mugabe ignored a midday deadline by the party's central committee to resign.

He now faces impeachment when parliament resumes on tomorrow.

Meanwhile, government ministers are being urged to go about their work as usual as the political confusion continues.

Update 10.40: Robert Mugabe ignores noon deadline to quit or face impeachment bid

President Robert Mugabe ignored a midday deadline set by the ruling party to step down or face impeachment proceedings, while Zimbabweans vowed more protests to make him leave office.

"Arrogant Mugabe disregards Zanu PF," one newspaper headline said.

Opposition activists and the influential liberation war veterans' association announced more demonstrations to pressure the 93-year-old Mr Mugabe, the world's oldest head of state, to step down after 37 years in power.

"Your time is up," veterans' association leader Chris Mutsvangwa said at a press conference.

"You should have the dignity and decency to spare the country of further turmoil by simply announcing your departure immediately."

He also suggested that the military, even though it put Mr Mugabe under house arrest days ago, was still beholden to him and compelled to protect him because he is officially their "commander in chief".

Zimbabweans were astonished that Mr Mugabe, flanked by the military in his national address on Sunday night, remained defiant.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, centre rear, meets with Defence Forces Generals at State House, in Harare yesterday.

The war veterans' association will go to court to argue that Mr Mugabe is "derelict of his executive duty", Mr Mutsvangwa said.

Some ruling party members said an impeachment process likely would not lead to Mr Mugabe's immediate resignation and could take days to complete.

Mr Mugabe was stripped of his party leadership on Sunday by the Central Committee of the ruling Zanu-PF but said in his speech he would preside over a party congress next month.

The congress is expected to ratify his firing as party chief, the expulsion of the unpopular first lady and the naming of Mr Mugabe's recently fired deputy to succeed him.

Amid the confusion, some people in the capital, Harare, are now more cautious about talking to reporters.

That contrasts with the jubilation and open condemnation of Mr Mugabe over the weekend, when the bulk of Harare's population of roughly 1.6 million appeared to be in the streets, dancing and taking selfies with soldiers in an event backed by the military.

Mr Mugabe in his speech acknowledged "a whole range of concerns" of Zimbabweans about the chaotic state of the government and its collapsed economy, but he stopped short of what many in the southern African nation were hoping for, a statement that he was stepping down.

The once-formidable Mr Mugabe is now a virtually powerless figure, making his continued incumbency all the more unusual and extending Zimbabwe's political limbo.

He is largely confined to his private home by the military.

Yet the president sought to project authority in his speech, which he delivered after shaking hands with security force commanders.

The army commander himself, whose threat to "step in" last week led to Mr Mugabe's house arrest, leaned over a couple of times to help the president find his place on the page he was reading.

Mr Mugabe has discussed his possible resignation on two occasions with military commanders after they effectively took over the country on Tuesday.

The commanders were troubled by his firing of his longtime deputy and the positioning of unpopular first lady Grace Mugabe to succeed him.

"I, as the president of Zimbabwe, as their 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 deep and patriotic concern for the stability of our nation and for the welfare of our people," Mr Mugabe said.

The deputy whom Mr Mugabe fired, former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, is positioned to become Zimbabwe's next leader after the party committee made him its nominee to take over from Mr Mugabe, who has ruled since independence from white minority rule in 1980.

The military appears to favour a voluntary resignation to maintain a veneer of legality in the political transition.

Mr Mugabe, in turn, is likely using whatever leverage he has left to try to preserve his legacy or even protect himself and his family from possible prosecution.

Earlier: Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe faces impeachment after defying calls to leave office

Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe has defied calls to quit, saying he will preside over a ruling party congress in December in an announcement that could trigger impeachment proceedings this week and more protests demanding his ouster.

In a televised address, 93-year-old Mr Mugabe acknowledged what he said were "a whole range of concerns" of Zimbabweans about the chaotic state of the government and the economy, but he stopped short of what many people in the southern African nation were hoping for - a statement that he was resigning after nearly four decades in power.

The once-formidable Mr Mugabe is now a virtually powerless, isolated figure, making his continued incumbency all the more unusual and extending Zimbabwe's political limbo. He is largely confined to his private home by the military.

The ruling party has fired him from his leadership post, and huge crowds poured into the streets of Harare, the capital, on Saturday to demand that he leave office.

Yet the president sought to project authority in his speech, which he delivered after shaking hands with security force commanders, one of whom leaned over a couple of times to help Mr Mugabe find his place on the page he was reading.

The Central Committee of the ruling ZANU-PF party voted to dismiss Mr Mugabe as party leader at a meeting earlier yesterday and said impeachment proceedings would begin if he does not resign by noon today (10am Irish Time).

Mr Mugabe made no reference to the party moves against him, instead saying he would play a leading role in a party congress planned for December 12-17.

"The congress is due in a few weeks from now," Mr Mugabe said. "I will preside over its processes, which must not be prepossessed by any acts calculated to undermine it or compromise the outcomes in the eyes of the public."

Mr Mugabe has discussed his possible resignation on two occasions with military commanders after they effectively took over the country on Tuesday. The commanders were troubled by his firing of his longtime deputy and the positioning of unpopular first lady Grace Mugabe to succeed him. He referred to the military's concerns about the state of Zimbabwe, where the economy has deteriorated amid factional battles within the ruling party.

"Whatever the pros and cons of the way they went about registering those concerns, I, as the president of Zimbabwe, as their 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 deep and patriotic concern for the stability of our nation and for the welfare of our people," Mr Mugabe said.

The deputy whom Mr Mugabe fired, former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, is positioned to become Zimbabwe's next leader after the party committee made him its nominee to take over from Mr Mugabe, who has ruled since independence from white minority rule in 1980.

Committee members stood, cheered and sang after Mr Mugabe was removed from his post as party leader. Meeting chair Obert Mpofu referred to him as "outgoing president" and called it a "sad day" for Mr Mugabe after his decades in power.

"He has been our leader for a long time, and we have all learned a great deal from him," Mpofu said. But Mr Mugabe, he said, "surrounded himself with a wicked cabal".

The meeting replaced Mr Mugabe as party chief with Mr Mnangagwa and recalled the first lady as head of the women's league, in decisions set to be ratified at the party congress next month. The committee accused the first lady of "preaching hate, divisiveness and assuming roles and powers not delegated to the office."

Zimbabwean officials never revealed details of Mr Mugabe's talks with the military, but the military appeared to favour a voluntary resignation to maintain a veneer of legality in the political transition. Mr Mugabe, in turn, has likely used whatever leverage he has left to try to preserve his legacy or even protect himself and his family from possible prosecution.

Hours before Mr Mugabe spoke on television, Chris Mutsvangwa, head of the country's liberation war veterans, said more protests could occur if the president does not step aside. He said he was concerned that the military could end up opening fire to protect Mr Mugabe from protesters.

"We would expect that Mugabe would not have the prospect of the military shooting at people, trying to defend him," Mr Mutsvangwa said. "The choice is his."

AP


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