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Mugabe stuns Zimbabwe as he defies party demands to resign

By Staff Reporter

Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe has baffled the country by making an address on national television without announcing his resignation - setting the stage for him to be impeached.

The Central Committee of ruling party Zanu-PF had hours earlier told him to resign as president by noon on Monday or face impeachment proceedings the following day.

After the speech, its chief whip said: "I don't see us failing to proceed with the impeachment."

Lovemore Matuke said: "The Central Committee decision stands until I am advised otherwise."

He added that "the speech was just surprising".

He said: "It is not in line with what we expected.

"We had understood that his resignation was coming to avoid the embarrassment of impeachment.

"The army is taking its own route, and as politicians we are taking our own route, but the ultimate goal is to make sure he goes, which he should have done tonight."

Zimbabweans had gathered in expectation of a celebration.

Instead, Mugabe appeared to hint at challenging the ruling party, which has expelled him as its leader, by trying to stay on.

He made a reference to presiding over a party congress next month.

"The congress is due in a few weeks from now," he said.

"I will preside over its processes, which must not be possessed by any acts calculated to undermine it or compromise the outcomes in the eyes of the public."

Officials close to the talks between Mugabe and the military had said the president would resign.

Mugabe noted the political turmoil that led to his military house arrest and expulsion as ruling party leader.

"From tonight ... the nation at all levels gets refocused," he said.

He continued that "failures of the past" may have triggered anger in some quarters, which he called "quite understandable".

He also noted that "intergenerational conflict must be resolved", a reference to his apparent positioning of his unpopular 52-year-old wife Grace to succeed him.

Mugabe is 93 and had been backed by fellow veterans of the country's liberation war, until they turned against him.

Zimbabweans said they felt profoundly disappointed that Mugabe was resisting pressure to step aside.

Victor Matemadanda, secretary general of the country's war veterans association, said he felt betrayed.

He said: "He is playing games with the people of Zimbabwe. He agrees to go and then plays games with us like that."

Mr Matemadanda said the war veterans would again rally the people to protest, and "this time the army will let him face the people".

"The army will now choose between shooting the people or protecting Mugabe," he added.

Zimbabweans who gathered at a bar in the capital to celebrate the expected resignation said they were frustrated.

One of them, Nyasha, said: "I would be happy for him, despite everything he has done, to leave with dignity and just walk away. ... He is so stubborn."

Another, Shengi, added: "Mugabe is a dictator and he'll always be a dictator."

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