The Latest: Zimbabwe ruling party pursues urgent meeting
HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — The Latest on Zimbabwe’s political turmoil (all times local):
Zimbabwe’s state-run Herald newspaper says all 10 of the ruling party’s provincial branches are calling for President Robert Mugabe and his wife to resign, and they seek a special Central Committee meeting within two days.
The report late Friday also says the party branches seek the reinstatement of former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose firing last week led the military to step in and put Mugabe under house arrest.
As calls for Mugabe’s departure grow, the ruling party appears to be positioning Mnangagwa to represent it in next year’s elections.
Fears that the unpopular first lady would replace Mnangagwa and eventually succeed her husband were a factor in the military’s move.
The wife of Zimbabwe’s army commander who put President Robert Mugabe under house arrest was among the graduates at the ceremony Mugabe attended in his first public appearance.
The state-run broadcaster made a point of mentioning Mary Chiwenga’s graduation in its nightly broadcast.
Zimbabweans are seizing on the political limbo to express themselves in previously unthinkable ways. Even state-run media has opened up a bit since Mugabe was put in custody earlier this week.
Talks continue on the departure of the president, who angered the military by firing his longtime deputy and appeared to position unpopular first lady Grace Mugabe to take his place.
Zimbabweans are watching a nightly newscast they never imagined to see on a state-run broadcaster that for decades led with President Robert Mugabe’s birthday and other achievements.
Most of the broadcast showed ruling party members describing Mugabe as too old to rule and urging him to step aside, even as some expressed respect for him.
In an example of the newly fluid loyalties, one party member from Mugabe’s province, who last week appeared on TV criticizing the newly fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, was now shown supporting the military’s move this week to put Mugabe under house arrest.
Mugabe’s first public appearance since house arrest made a short mention near the end of the broadcast.
Zimbabwe’s military says in a new statement it supports a rally called for Saturday in the capital that will urge President Robert Mugabe to step aside.
The statement read out on state-run television also says the military’s operation “remains solid” and Zimbabweans are urged to remain patient.
The military is pursuing talks with Mugabe on the “way forward” while arresting some top allies of him and his wife.
Zimbabwe’s state-run broadcaster is reporting that the ruling party is seeking the departure of President Robert Mugabe, under the previously unthinkable headline “ZANU-PF calls on Pres Mugabe to resign.”
The Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation report at the top of the nightly news comes as Zimbabweans are using the political limbo to express themselves.
Opposition members and others have called for a rally Saturday in the capital, Harare, to urge Mugabe to go. They say the rally has the backing of the military, which stepped in this week amid alarm that Mugabe was positioning his wife to succeed him.
The ZBC television report includes party members speaking out against the president.
A UK-based official with Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party says all 10 of the party’s provincial branches are calling for the removal of President Robert Mugabe.
Nick Mangwana says on Twitter that the branches have agreed to direct the party’s Central Committee to recall Mugabe as party leader. Recently fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa would assume the acting leadership until the party’s congress next month.
Whoever leads the party would run for president of Zimbabwe in next year’s elections.
It is not clear when the ruling party’s Central Committee would meet.
The privately owned Zimbabwean newspaper Newsday is reporting that all 10 of ZANU-PF’s provincial branches have passed votes of no confidence in Mugabe as leader.
A poster circulating in Zimbabwe’s capital is calling on citizens to rally on Saturday to “remove Mugabe from power.”
Calls for the solidarity march to the State House say both the military and the opposition are supporting it.
“We can’t have a 93-year-old person ruling more than 15 million people,” the poster says.
Those encouraging participation in Saturday’s rally include pastor Evan Mawarire, whose #ThisFlag social media campaign last year led to the largest anti-government protests in a decade.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is calling for a return to civilian rule in Zimbabwe and says the country has a chance to put itself on a “new path” amid signs longtime authoritarian President Robert Mugabe will be forced from power after 37 years in a bloodless coup.
Speaking at a meeting of African foreign ministers at the State Department on Friday, Tillerson said that whoever replaces Mugabe at the helm must respect democracy and human rights. He said the choice of leadership is solely the choice of the Zimbabwean people.
His comments came as the 93-year-old Mugabe made his first public appearance since the military put him under house arrest this week. The military has announced “significant progress” on talks for his departure and arrested some of his allies.
China’s government says it hopes Zimbabwe’s political situation can be resolved “under the legal framework.”
Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters that China would be “glad to see an early restoration of national stability and social order in Zimbabwe.”
Geng did not say what role China is playing in Zimbabwe’s situation. Longtime President Robert Mugabe is under house arrest after the military moved in, and negotiations continue on his departure.
Questions have been raised about China’s role because Zimbabwe’s army commander visited the country last week. On Monday, he threatened to “step in” to calm Zimbabwe’s tensions over Mugabe’s firing of his longtime deputy.
China has called the visit by Gen. Constantino Chiwenga a “normal military exchange.”
High-level supporters of the Zimbabwe vice president whose firing led the military to step in say reports of Emmerson Mnangagwa’s return to the country are false.
The supporters say Mnangagwa, who is expected to lead any new government, will return to Zimbabwe only after processes to remove President Robert Mugabe are complete. They say he doesn’t want his presence to be destabilizing.
They hope a rally on Saturday in the capital, Harare, in support of the military’s move will increase pressure on Mugabe to step aside.
They say that if that fails, the impeachment of Mugabe would be the next step when Parliament resumes Tuesday.
The supporters spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media about the matter.
— Farai Mutsaka in Harare.
An official says another provincial branch of Zimbabwe’s ruling party has passed a no-confidence vote in President Robert Mugabe as the world’s oldest head of state struggles to remain in power.
The official with knowledge of the meeting says Mashonaland East province passed the no-confidence vote. Other ruling party branches in Zimbabwe’s 10 provinces are said to be following suit.
Parliament is expected to resume sitting on Tuesday. It is possible that the ruling ZANU-PF party could use party procedures to impeach Mugabe with the support of opposition lawmakers.
Mugabe has been under house arrest since the military moved in this week, angered by his firing of longtime deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa. Negotiations continue on his departure, though he is said to be asking for more time.
— Farai Mutsaka in Harare.
At least one regional branch of Zimbabwe’s ruling party has called on President Robert Mugabe to resign, and others are said to be following suit.
The Manicaland provincial committee in the eastern city of Mutare has called for the resignation as other party meetings are held across the country.
And the chairman of the influential war veterans’ association in Zimbabwe has just read out a note to reporters saying other ruling party branches in Midlands, Masvingo and Harare have passed no-confidence votes in Mugabe.
Chris Mutsvangwa says other provinces are following suit.
A ZANU-PF provincial youth league meeting in the capital, Harare, was attended by some formerly expelled members who have supported the recently fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa. He is expected to lead any new government.
There was no sign of activity at the party’s main headquarters, which is under military guard.
The chairman of the influential war veterans’ association in Zimbabwe says three Cabinet ministers under President Robert Mugabe have been arrested.
Chris Mutsvangwa told reporters in the capital, Harare, that higher education minister Jonathan Moyo, local government minister Saviour Kasukuwere and finance minister Ignatious Chombo “are in jail” along with a number of others.
The information could not immediately be confirmed.
Mutsvangwa is an ally of the recently fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa who is expected to lead any new government.
Moyo was listed on the program for the graduation ceremony that Mugabe attended Friday morning, but there was no sign of him.
Zimbabwe’s military said earlier Friday that it had arrested some Mugabe allies. It did not name names.
The chairman of the influential war veterans’ association in Zimbabwe says President Robert Mugabe has asked for “a few more days, a few more months” amid negotiations on his departure from power.
Chris Mutsvangwa, an ally of the recently fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa who is expected to lead any new government, told reporters in Zimbabwe’s capital that “between now and tomorrow” they will warn Mugabe that the game is over.
“He has to make a decision today to leave. ... If he doesn’t leave, we will settle the scores tomorrow.”
Mutsvangwa calls the president “a senile old man who had lost control of his wife.” Fears that first lady Grace Mugabe would replace Mnangagwa led to the military stepping in.
Mutsvangwa said Mugabe’s first public appearance since his house arrest, at a graduation ceremony Friday morning, was a “pretense.”
The war veterans association chair says they are “on the same page” with their friends in South Africa’s government, which has sent Cabinet ministers to negotiate with Mugabe.
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s first public appearance since a military takeover is at a university graduation ceremony on the outskirts of Harare.
Clad in academic gown and hat, Mugabe walked slowly in a procession on a red carpet to a podium as a marching band played.
Several thousand graduates of the Zimbabwe Open University and guests stood as Mugabe and other dignitaries entered a tent set up for the event.
Once on the podium, Mugabe joined the crowd in singing Zimbabwe’s national anthem. He announced the opening of the graduation ceremony, and the crowd applauded.
Mugabe’s presidential security detail was present.
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe is making his first public appearance since the military put him under house arrest earlier this week, attending a graduation ceremony in the capital, Harare.
The appearance comes during an extraordinary series of negotiations with regional leaders over Mugabe’s departure after 37 years in power.
The military is taking pains to show respect for the 93-year-old leader, the world’s oldest head of state, by referring to him as the president and the commander-in-chief.
Friday’s event appears to allow Mugabe to project the image of leadership, even as calls for his departure grow stronger.
Zimbabwe’s military says it is continuing talks with President Robert Mugabe for his departure while it pursues those who were close to the leader and his wife.
Zimbabwe state media reported Friday morning a military statement saying talks with Mugabe “on the way forward” are ongoing.
The Zimbabwe Defense Forces said “significant progress has been made in their operation to weed out criminals around President Mugabe,” adding that they had arrested some although others were still at large.
The statement said Zimbabwe’s military is “currently engaging with the Commander-in-Chief President Robert Mugabe on the way forward and will advise the nation of the outcome as soon as possible.” The state-run Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation television aired a similar report in its early morning bulletin.