Zimbabwe’s ruling party, ZANU-PF, has voted to sack President Robert Mugabe as its leader.
Members also voted to name sacked Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who Mugabe fired on November 6, as new party leader.
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“They were determined to fire Mugabe as leader of the party,” said Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa, reporting from Harare, as she described jubilant scenes.
Mugabe remains president of the country, however, amid calls for him to resign following a military takeover on November 15.
In opening remarks at ZANU-PF’s Central Committee meeting, Obert Mpofu, the minister of home affairs who chaired the gathering, blamed First Lady Grace Mugabe and her allies for taking advantage of the veteran leader.
“We meet here today with a heavy heart because Mugabe’s wife and her close associates have taken advantage of his frail condition and abused the resources of the country,” he told members. “I warmly welcome you all to this historic meeting which will mark a new era, not only for our country but for the party.”
Members cheered as the resolution to recall Mugabe was read out.
Earlier on Sunday, the ZANU-PF Youth League, which Grace Mugabe leads, called for her expulsion from ZANU-PF “forever” and demanded the president to resign as leader of the country and party, “so that he can rest as the elderly statesman he is”.
The group also condemned the “unprocedural expulsion” of Mnangagwa, who Mugabe sacked on November 6.
Chris Mutsvangwa, head of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, later told reporters in Harare: “The army must finish with him today. He’d better give in to them now.”
Mugabe has been under military quarantine at his residence since Wednesday, when the army placed him under house arrest and took over state TV and key government sites.
Mugabe’s decision to sack Mnangagwa, who was touted as his most likely successor, spurred an internal power struggle.
First Lady Grace Mugabe was tipped to takeover as second secretary and vice president, prompting a military takeover with the army saying it wanted to “target criminals” around Mugabe who were leading the party and state astray.
In a rare sign of solidarity between the people and the army, which has often been a pillar of support for Mugabe’s near 40-year rule, Zimbabweans on Saturday expressed support and praise for the military’s operation.
Huge crowds swelled on the streets.
Civilians could be seen giving hugs and fist bumps to soldiers, and taking selfies with army personnel camped outside parliament, the presidential offices and other strategic sites.
There was a convivial mood in the capital as people played loud music and danced after marching to State House to demand Mugabe’s resignation, in scenes described as “historic” and representing a “day of freedom”.
Zimbabweans have never before gathered in such numbers to march against Mugabe.