Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe defied calls to quit Sunday, saying he will preside over a ruling party congress in December in an announcement that could trigger impeachment proceedings this week and more protests demanding his ouster.
In a televised address, the 93-year-old Mugabe acknowledged what he said were “a whole range of concerns” of Zimbabweans about the chaotic state of the government and the economy, but he stopped short of what many people in the southern African nation were hoping for — a statement that he was resigning after nearly four decades in power.
The once-formidable Mugabe is now a virtually powerless, isolated figure, making his continued incumbency all the more unusual and extending Zimbabwe’s political limbo. He is largely confined to his private home by the military. The ruling party has fired him from his leadership post, and huge crowds poured into the streets of Harare, the capital, on Saturday to demand that he leave office.
Yet the president sought to project authority in his speech, which he delivered after shaking hands with security force commanders, one of whom leaned over a couple of times to help Mugabe find his place on the page he was reading. The Central Committee of the ruling ZANU-PF party voted to dismiss Mugabe as party leader at a meeting earlier Sunday and said impeachment proceedings would begin if he does not resign by noon Monday. Mugabe made no reference to the party moves against him, instead saying he would play a leading role in a party congress planned for Dec. 12-17.