HARARE – President Robert Mugabe faced the threat of impeachment by his own party on Monday after his shock insistence that he still holds power in Zimbabwe despite a military takeover and a noon deadline to end his 37-year autocratic rule.His once-loyal Zanu-PF party had warned it would seek to impeach him if he failed to quit by midday on Monday. The party has yet to comment on its next steps after that deadline passed.The army was expected to hold a briefing in response to the crisis triggered by Mugabe’s refusal to go.

As the Zanu-PF deadline passed, a noisy group of demonstrators gathered at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare to call for Mugabe to stand down.

In a televised address late on Sunday, the 93-year-old veteran leader defied expectations that he would quit, pitching the country into a second week of political crisis.

The speech provoked anger and disbelief among many Zimbabweans, fuelling concerns that Mugabe could face a violent backlash.

Mugabe’s speech capped an extraordinary weekend during which Zimbabweans celebrated and vented their anger in ways that, just a week earlier, would have been brutally repressed.

But their joy quickly turned to despair as Mugabe brushed aside the turmoil, blithely declaring he would chair a top-level meeting of the party that had just disavowed him.

‘He’s lost his marbles’

Chris Mutsvangwa, head of the influential war veterans’ association, called for less restrained protests than those staged at the weekend in an effort to dislodge Mugabe.

“Save the country further turmoil. If not, we are bringing the people of Zimbabwe back to the streets,” he said on Monday as he also threatened legal action against the president.

“This time there will be a sit-in. We are not going to be leaving Harare until this guy is gone.

“He’s lost his marbles.”

Though Mugabe has struggled with public speaking in recent years, the wily statesman appeared alert and attentive as he delivered a speech that made no mention of stepping down.

“We will continue with the momentum to make sure Mugabe is history. It might take days and weeks, but Mugabe is on his way out,” said Charles Muramba, a 46-year-old bus driver.

“Arrogant Mugabe disregards Zanu-PF,” screamed the front page of the Daily News on Monday.

But impeaching Mugabe, who is the only leader most Zimbabweans have ever known, would require a two-thirds supermajority in both houses of Zimbabwe’s parliament, which is due to resume on Tuesday.


Derek Matyszak, an analyst at the Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies, said Mugabe’s address raised the stakes even further.

“It’s absolutely astounding. Mugabe behaves as if nothing Zanu-PF said (on Sunday, when it removed him as leader ) was of any relevance,” he told AFP.

Some sources suggest Mugabe has been battling to delay his exit in order to secure a deal that would guarantee future protection for him and his family.