Deposed dictator Robert Mugabe broke down in tears and asked for his dead wife and son before meeting army chiefs on Sunday after being ousted as leader of Zanu-PF party, one of his aides has told MailOnline.
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The frail 93-year-old has until noon local time on Monday to resign as President or impeachment proceedings will start, Zanu-PF said.
Mugabe was replaced by the vice- president he previously sacked, Emmerson “Crocodile” Mnangagwa, on Sunday after all ten Zimbabwean provinces passed no-confidence motions against the dictator two days earlier.
Although Mugabe technically remains President, the fact that he no longer leads his party means that the end is almost certainly in sight for his 37-year reign.
Ahead of his meeting with army officials to discuss his exit, Mugabe was “wailing profusely” and saying that he wished he could speak to his dead wife, Sally Mugabe, and his late son, Michael Nhamodzenyika, who died from cerebral malaria in 1966 at the age of three.
“He spends most of his time looking at an old photograph of Sally. It is terrible,” the aide said of Mugabe’s first wife, who died of kidney failure in 1992.
In 1996, Mugabe went on to marry his current wife, “Gucci” Grace, who was expelled on Sunday from her role as head of the Zanu-PF Women’s League “forever”.
The frail dictator has been staging a hunger strike over his confinement in house arrest and is refusing to take regular baths or speak, the aide added.
The only person who has managed to get through to him is the Catholic cleric Father Fidelis Mukonori, who is mediating between Mugabe and the generals, the aide added.
There is widespread speculation that Mugabe will officially resign late on Sunday after a crunch meeting with the head of Zimbabwe’s armed forces.
He has so far given little sign of capitulating, however, instead resisting the massive pressure from all sides by staging a hunger strike, making threats and refusing to speak at his Blue Roof home.
Mnangagwa within touching distance of the presidency, is only being delayed by Mugabe’s continued refusal to step down.
If he resigns, Mugabe could live as an “elder statesman” in Zimbabwe, or travel to a country where he has property, including South Africa, Dubai or Singapore.
While Mugabe has been removed from his role of Zanu-PF party leader, his title as Zimbabwean President remains.
Impeaching the President is the next step when Parliament resumes Tuesday, and lawmakers will “definitely” put the process in motion, the main opposition’s parliamentary chief whip told The Associated Press. Mnangagwa, the former state security chief, is in line to head an interim post-Mugabe unity government that will focus on rebuilding ties with the outside world and stabilising an economy in free fall.
News of Mugabe’s removal comes as MailOnline exclusively revealed that the elderly dictator had gone on hunger strike. One of his close family members confirmed that he was refusing to eat as a strategic ploy.
The frail Mugabe has not accepted any food since Saturday, the source revealed, as he continues to be held under house arrest at his Blue Roof mansion.
Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao said on Saturday that Mugabe was “willing to die for what is correct”.
A Zanu-PF minister confirmed to MailOnline that Mugabe is also refusing to speak as part of his days-long protest.
“The old man has been trying various tricks since last night,” the minister, who asked not to be named, said. “Hunger strikes, making threats and refusing to talk.”
Mugabe on Sunday met to discuss his exit with army commander Constantino Chiwenga, who put him under house arrest.
Leader of Zimbabwe’s war veterans association Christopher Mutsvangwa said Mugabe should just resign from his role as President and leave the country.
“We are going all the way,” Mutsvangwa, who has led the campaign to oust Zimbabwe’s ruler of the last 37 years, said “He’s trying to bargain for a dignified exit but he should just smell the coffee.”
A day after huge crowds rallied peacefully in Harare for the 93-year-old Mugabe to go, members of Zanu-PF central committee stood, cheered and began to sing as the process of recalling Mugabe began. Meeting chair Obert Mpofu referred to Mugabe as “outgoing president”.
The meeting also replaced Mugabe as party head with Mnangagwa whose firing nearly two weeks ago led the military to step in, and recall “forever” the unpopular first lady as head of the women’s league.
Mnangagwa, who was fired by Mugabe two weeks ago, is expected to lead a new government. Without the military’s intervention, first lady Grace Mugabe likely would have replaced him as vice-president and be in a position to succeed her husband.
One of Mnangagwa’s top aides told MailOnline that Mugabe was “like a bitter wife whose husband has filed divorce papers”.
Speaking outside the Zanu-PF committee meeting, he said: “Mugabe is not a problem for us now. He has no power. We are divorcing him and he’s getting zero alimony.”
The aide, who asked not to be named, added: “Whether he resigns today or tomorrow, he’s finished. We engineered everything very well and it went very smoothly.”
Mnangagwa, who has just been appointed leader of Zanu-PF, is widely expected to become president when the Mugabe is finally deposed.
The new leader’s cousin, Lucky Kunene, told MailOnline that when power has been fully transferred, Zimbabwe will “change from dictatorship to freedom”.
“My cousin is feeling happy and satisfied that justice has been done,” he said. “He has always been ready to serve Zimbabwe but the people have not been ready to accept him. That has all changed now.”
He pointed out that Mnangagwa was the architect of Zimbabwe’s security apparatus and judicial system that brought down crime levels.
“He is from the progressive side of Zanu-PF and this is what our country needs,” the cousin said. “He has lost elections twice and never questioned the result. He has shown that he respects democracy and the rule of law.”
Kunene added: “My cousin places the economy first, not his own power. When he takes over, it will finally be the fulfilment of the people’s wishes for black empowerment, economic prosperity and democracy.”
Mnangagwa’s aide added: “My only fear was that the fury of our people would be uncontrollable. But they were so magnanimous.
“We felt like taking over the old man’s home and smashing it up, but instead we sang and danced.”
During Sunday’s meeting, chairman Mpofu told the committee that they were meeting with “a heavy heart” because Mugabe had served the country and contributed “many memorable achievements”.
But Mpofu said in his opening remarks that Mugabe’s wife “and close associates have taken advantage of his frail condition” to loot national resources.
The army threatened to let a mob lynch Mugabe if he didn’t stand down, MailOnline revealed on Saturday. Now Mugabe has responded by rejecting all food.
“If he dies under military custody, even by natural causes, then the army will be held responsible by the international community,” the family member, who asked not to be named, said. “That is how the President is trying to put pressure on the army.”
The family member also said that Grace Mugabe was by her husband’s side at the Blue Roof mansion yesterday, and is thought to still be there today.
The meeting follows rumours that the dictator had fled the country after hundreds of thousands took to the streets to protest against his rule.
Video footage from protests obtained exclusively by MailOnline showed angry crowds tearing down a huge billboard of Mugabe outside the headquarters of the ruling Zanu-PF party in central Harare.
The footage shows dramatic scenes that would have been unthinkable just a few days ago.
While Mugabe has been removed as party leader, his title as President of Zimbabwe remains.
He can only be removed from his presidency through resignation or impeachment, launched through a constitutional process.
“What is left is just the technical detail of how he’s going to leave,” former Zimbabwean finance minister Tendai Biti told Sky News. “Even if Zanu-PF does remove him — if they do have the power, which I doubt — that doesn’t amount to removing him as President of the country.
“There has to be formal processes — either his own resignation or an impeachment.” A Zimbabwean ruling party member said there could be prosecutions of members of a party faction close to Mugabe’s wife.
Lawmaker Emmanuel Fundira also says he thinks it is a “fait accompli” that recently fired Vice-President Mnangagwa will be reinstated and chosen to lead Zimbabwe after Mugabe’s expected resignation.
Fundira said that “corrupt and rotten” leaders in the ruling party should be punished.
“There are some resources which have been taken away from this country,” Fundira says. “Naturally, the laws will follow up and make sure that all those people are brought to book.”
Mugabe’s talks with Chiwenga on Sunday were the second round of negotiations on an exit with a veneer of dignity as the military tries to avoid accusations of a coup.
Zimbabwean officials have not revealed details of the talks, but the military appears to favour a voluntary resignation by Mugabe to maintain a veneer of legality in the political transition.
Mugabe, in turn, could be using whatever leverage he has left to try to preserve his legacy as one of Africa’s liberation leaders or even protect himself and his family from possible prosecution.
Zanu-PF moved forward with the process of formally expelling Mugabe from the party after all ten of Zimbabwe’s provinces passed no-confidence motions against him on Friday.
Sunday’s talks did not appear to include the South African government delegation that took part in the first round. South Africa’s president on Saturday said talks are in “early days”.
The southern African regional bloc will hold a four-country summit in Angola on Tuesday to discuss the Zimbabwe situation.
Innocent Gonese with the MDC-T party said they had been in discussions with the ruling Zanu-PF party to act jointly.
Gonese said of the talks: “If Mugabe is not gone by Tuesday, then as sure as the sun rises from the east, impeachment process will kick in.”
The MDC-T has unsuccessfully tried to impeach Mugabe in the past, but now the ruling party has turned against him.
Ahead of Sunday’s meetings, the youth league of Zanu-PF called for Mugabe to resign and take a rest as an “elder statesman” while his wife, Grace, should be expelled from the party “forever.”
Youth league leader Yeukai Simbanegavi praises the military for moving against what she describes as a group of “criminals” led by Grace Mugabe.
“It is unfortunate that the president allowed her to usurp executive authority from him, thereby destroying both the party and the government,” Simbanegavi said at ruling party headquarters on Sunday. The army has also brought intense pressure to bear upon the 93-year-old, threatening to stand aside and allow him to be lynched if he does not stand down soon, a senior politician told MailOnline.
Mutsvangwa said that he is concerned that the military could end up opening fire to protect Mugabe from protesters. He says there will be more demonstrations like the massive one held on Saturday if Mugabe’s negotiations with the military on his departure from power don’t end soon.
He hopes Mugabe “gives in to the fact that he has got to tender his resignation and leave”.
“We would expect that Mugabe would not have the prospect of the military shooting at people, trying to defend him,” Mutsvangwa said. “The choice is his.”
In an exclusive interview with MailOnline, Mutsvangwa previously revealed: “The army gave the dictator a message earlier [Saturday]. Either he steps down or they will let the people in to his mansion to take him.
“The army is threatening to unleash the people and let Mugabe be lynched. The generals said they will not shoot the people for him. Instead, they will abandon their posts and leave him to his fate.”
Mutsvangwa added: “At first, the army was holding him prisoner. Now they are protecting him from the people.”
Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Harare on Saturday in a historic show of unity to demand an end to the 37-year reign of Mugabe. Military helicopters flew low overhead as huge crowds marched into the centre of the capital city, waving Zimbabwean flags and chanting “remove the dictator” and “Mugabe, our country is not your property”.
It was an unprecedented show of defiance and unity in this notoriously divided country, as ordinary Zimbabweans from across the political spectrum came together as one to oppose the dictator.
Some protesters shouted “Ngwena, Ngwena,” or “Crocodile, Crocodile”, in support of sacked vice-president Mnangagwa, the favourite to become the next leader.
Fiery speeches were delivered at the Harare football stadium to a crowd of hundreds of thousands after a day of chaotic anti-Mugabe parades through the city.
Several speakers shouted “Viva Zimbabwe”, to prolonged cheers and singing from the crowds, mixed with blasts of music over the loudspeakers.
“Mugabe and his typist-cum-wife must go home,” said Victor Matemadanda, the secretary-general of the powerful War Veterans’ Association.
“Let’s go and take back the country from the State House.’
He added: “If he’s not at the State House, let’s go to the Blue Roof,” referring to Mugabe’s £7,5million mansion where he is under house arrest. Oppah Muchinguri Kashiri, the country’s environment minister who was Mugabe’s girlfriend in the Eighties and Nineties and has had physical fights with his wife Grace, said:
“I thank you all for being resolute. Now let’s remain focused and finish what we started. Let’s take Mugabe with a strong grip and remove him.”
The mass show of defiance comes as Mugabe has been dramatically thrown out of his own party after all ten provinces of Zimbabwe passed a no-confidence motion in the dictator.
It makes it almost impossible for him to continue to cling to power. The decision will be ratified on Sunday and put into effect next week.
Frank Mutsindikwa, 34, said: “These are tears of joy. I’ve been waiting all my life for this day. Free at last. We are free at last.”
During protests on Saturday, ecstatic crowds marched through central Harare, cheering and hugging soldiers, honking horns, dancing, and singing: “Bob, you have sold out the country, remember we are the ones who put you there and we are now removing you.”
Ordinary Zimbabweans said they felt like they were dreaming after the 37-year-old dictatorship crumbled before their eyes.
“It’s like Christmas,” said one marcher, Fred Mubay, who said Zimbabweans have been suffering for a long time. .