After weeks of political unrest, Zimbabwe’s ruling party, ZANU-PF, voted Sunday to fire President Robert Mugabe as its party chief, and asked him to resign as the country’s leader by Monday or face impeachment.
The party also voted to oust First Lady Grace Mugabe from the party entirely and to replace President Mugabe with Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who Mugabe fired weeks ago. Mugabe had sought to appoint his wife as Mnangagwa’s successor.
The firing of Mnangagwa led to a surprising sequence of events. Last week, the military took over the government, claiming that it was protecting Mugabe and his wife as they zeroed in on the president’s inner circle to weed out corruption and criminals. The President and First Lady were ultimately placed under house arrest. Zimbabweans welcomed the coup, marching in the streets in unprecedented numbers to express their opposition to Mugabe.
While Mugabe remains the President of Zimbabwe (he has been the country’s sole ruler since its independence 37 years ago), his dismissal as party leader is significant. According to the BBC, the move heightens the pressure against Mugabe, as moves to impeach him as President if he fails to resign begin to materialize.
Amid cheers by members of ZANU-PF’s Central Committee, Obert Mpofu, minister of home affairs, announced the decision to fire Mugabe at a meeting Sunday. According to Al-Jazeera, Mpofu blamed Grace Mugabe and her advisers for abusing her position and taking advantage of the President.
“We meet here today with a heavy heart because Mugabe’s wife and her close associates have taken advantage of his frail condition and abused the resources of the country,” Mpofu said, according to Al-Jazeera. “I warmly welcome you all to this historic meeting which will mark a new era, not only for our country but for the party.”
Delegates responded with chants against the First Lady and shouted about the President, “He must go!”
Zimbabweans have blamed Mugabe for the country’s economic problems, including drastic currency hyperinflation and deflation. His record on human rights is also dismal and, under his rule, women’s rights, LGBTQ rights, and press freedoms have suffered.