A large crowd gathered outside Zimbabwe’s parliament on Tuesday as law makers began impeachment proceedings against President Robert Mugabe.
Having refused to step down since the military launched a bloodless coup last week, the 93-year-old president now faces impeachment, which analysts predict could take anywhere from several days to months.
Zimbabwe’s ruling party – Zanu-PF party which sacked Mugabe as its head on Sunday – is expected to vote in favour of removing the leader of almost four decades.
The opposition has also indicated they will go along with the motion.
Morgan Tsvangirai’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change party said that both parties have agreed to impeach President Mugabe.
However, Tsvangirai stressed that is not enough to simply remove Mugabe as president without changing the whole “system and culture” of the ruling party.
He accused the party of being “premised on gross human rights abuse and shrinking the democratic place.”
After lawmakers had initially assembled at parliament, proceedings had to be moved to a hotel as the large number of members who turned up created a lack of space.
The political drama has been unsettling for Zimbabweans, who welcomed the military takeover, but are now unsure how long it will take for Mugabe to actually leave power.
Lovemore Madhuku, a law professor at University of Zimbabwe, said on Monday that impeachment proceedings could last anywhere between 72 hours and several months.
There are three stages involved: the motion must be moved, a committee set up to investigate the charges, and then a vote taken by both the parliament and the senate.
A two-thirds majority is needed for impeachment to pass.
Mugabe, who has been under house arrest since the coup, suffered another small humiliation earlier Tuesday, when only a handful of ministers turned up for a cabinet meeting that he had defiantly called.
“Only five ministers have turned up for the meeting, the rest snubbed him because they are with the people’s wishes,’’ said Douglas Mahiya, a leader of the influential War Veterans Association.
Ahead of parliament’s sitting, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was fired as Mugabe’s deputy and now looks set to replace him, made his first comments since the takeover.
Mnangagwa threw his support behind impeachment proceedings in a statement, also saying he would only return to the country when his security could be guaranteed.
He fled to South Africa after his dismissal, saying he feared for his life.
Mnangagwa said he had been in communication with Mugabe but that proper talks between the two should wait until after the impeachment proceedings.
“If [Mugabe] continues to dig in, in defiance of the will of the people, he might suffer humiliation because definitely the will of the people will prevail against one person,” Mnangagwa added.
Known as “the Crocodile” for his cunning and ruthlessness, Mnangagwa is supported by the army and the War Veterans’ Association, both of which were afraid Mugabe might hand power to his wife Grace, who is widely disliked.
Mnangagwa was named the new Zanu-PF party leader on Sunday to replace Mugabe.
But in a live televised address to the nation that night, during which he was expected to resign, Mugabe baffled the nation by instead promising to lead a Zanu-PF party conference in December.
Botswana’s president, in an open letter, called on Tuesday for Mugabe to go, while the leaders of South Africa and Angola are headed to Zimbabwe on Wednesday to access the situation.