Former Zimbabwean Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa has urged longtime President Robert Mugabe to resign in a strongly worded statement delivered from an unknown location outside of the country.
In the statement issued Tuesday morning, the former vice president said he refused to return to Zimbabwe until he was sure he would be safe, despite an invitation from Mugabe to discuss “the current political events in the nation.”
He alleged he was told by “friendly” security personnel in November there were plans to “eliminate” him once he had been removed from his post and taken into custody.
Mnangagwa is thought to have fled Zimbabwe after Mugabe fired him unexpectedly earlier this month. His ouster triggered a political crisis which led to a shock military takeover last Wednesday.
“I told the President I would not return home now until I am satisfied of my personal security, because of the manner and treatment given to me upon being fired,” he said in the statement.
Mugabe, who has led Zimbabwe for nearly 40 years, has yet to publicly announce his resignation despite an apparent coup and his political party, ZANU-PF, removing him as leader.
“Mugabe has always said that if the people don’t want him he will leave office, now that they have spoken he must now accept the will of the people and resign,” the statement said.
The issue could soon be taken out of Mugabe’s hands, with the president’s own party expected to set into motion plans to impeach him in the country’s parliament Tuesday.
On Monday, the country’s military chief said Mugabe had agreed to direct talks with the former Vice President he recently fired, a sacking that triggered political calamity.
A source told CNN that Mugabe had agreed to terms for his resignation in talks with military leaders who have seized control in the country, and that a letter had been drafted.
But the midday deadline for his resignation passed Monday with no word from the defiant leader.
In his statement, Mnangagwa said he had told Mugabe there were two options — work to leave peacefully and preserve his legacy or be forced out in humiliation.
“The will of the people will prevail against one person,” he said.
Mnangagwa, expected to be first in line to lead Zimbabwe after Mugabe, has a close relationship with the military and is known by his nickname, “The Crocodile” on account of his political survival skills.
The former vice president said in his statement he wanted to see “all people of Zimbabwe” come together to rebuild the nation.
“My desire is to join all Zimbabweans in a new era where corruption, incompetency, dereliction of duty and laziness, social and cultural decadency is not tolerated,” he said.
Mnangagwa’s call for a “new era” in Zimbabwe appears to tap into the popular sentiment surfacing in the wake of the past week’s apparent coup.
Where once locals were too scared to speak out against their tyrannical leader, on Monday they were defiantly calling on him to go.
At a prayer meeting in a park opposite Parliament House, residents sang hymns and called for change. “We do not him, we don’t want the slightest bit of Robert Mugabe… he’s made our lives miserable,” one woman said.
University of Harare students gathered in the streets to call for their aging president to step down.
“We might be replacing a snake with another snake that much as we know, but it would take seven years of cooperation. What we’re saying is we need new blood as our leader,” one man said.
They were just some of the tens of thousands of people who have protested in the streets since last Wednesday, calling for an end to Mugabe’s time in power.
The voices supporting him have been far more muted, and world leaders are tacitly supporting the military’s actions.
If Mugabe does decide to resign, he must send a letter to the speaker of Parliament, who should then publicly announce the resignation within 24 hours, according to the constitution.
If his rule ends, the speaker will have to serve as an interim leader. Usually it is the vice president’s role to step in, but the country has not had one since Mnangagwa was fired earlier this month.