Pressure mounts on Robert Mugabe as ruling party calls for him to step down

After appearing publicly for the first time Friday since the military takeover, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe faces increasing pressure to step down.

Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party called on Friday for President Robert Mugabe to resign, the main state newspaper The Herald reported, the latest sign that the aging leader’s authority has collapsed after the army takeover.

The newspaper said that ZANU-PF branches in all 10 provinces had met on Friday and had also called for Mugabe’s wife Grace to resign from the party.

Leaders of eight of ten regional branches of the 93-year-old’s ruling ZANU-PF party also took to state television in an apparently coordinated push to call for him to go.

“The province resolved unanimously to recall the president… from being the president of the party and the government,” said Cornelius Mupereri, a spokesman for the party’s Midlands region.

Mupereri was one of several branch officials to appear on ZBC’s nightly news to read almost identical statements calling on the liberation hero turned autocrat to resign for the good of the nation.

As well as increasingly vocal opposition from within his own party, Mugabe will face street protests on Saturday organised by veterans of the country’s independence war and supported by long-standing opponents of the president.

‘Now we’ve got a future’

The dramatic intervention by the regional leaders of Mugabe’s party caps a week of unprecedented turmoil in which generals seized power and put the veteran ruler under house arrest.

Ahead of his public appearance at a graduation ceremony in Harare on Friday, Mugabe had been confined to house arrest after the military takeover a stunning turnaround for the president who has ruled since 1980.

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He attended the event in Harare dressed in a blue academic gown and tasselled hat, before listening to speeches with his eyes closed and applauding occasionally, an AFP correspondent reported.

Mugabe did not comment on the take-over by the generals who seized power late Tuesday after vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa was sacked and Mugabe’s wife Grace emerged as the frontrunner to succeed him as president.

Mnangagwa, who had fled abroad after his firing, returned to the country on Thursday and seems poised to play a central role in shaping developments.

Citizens were stunned by the military’s actions, which were sparked by the bitter succession battle between Grace and Mnangagwa.

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