Harare - A quarter of Robert Mugabe’s enormous, 40-strong cabinet were expelled from Zanu-PF on Sunday.
Those kicked out played a leading role in a faction within Zanu PF known as G40, loyal both to Mugabe standing for re-election next year and his wife Grace who they wanted to be appointed vice president at the party’s special congress next month. A congress which is now expected to be postponed.
Among those sacked was the finance minister Ignatius Chombo who was appointed last month after Mugabe reshuffled his cabinet kicking out several supporters of recently sacked vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa.
About 200 members of the Zanu PF central committee poured into Harare on Sunday and met at the party’s headquarters near the city centre.
It was a jovial meeting. The central committee is 300 strong and 200 showed up and voted to recall Mugabe from his post of first secretary and president of Zanu-PF, the party he helped form while in detention in Rhodesia more then then 40 years ago.
Patrick Chinamasa, the reformist finance minister, sacked last month when Mugabe reshuffled his cabinet to rid it of Mnangagwa’s supporters, did most of the talking, firmly and brutally and said he would ensure that first lady Grace Mugabe was arrested if necessary.
He accused her of "preaching hate, divisiveness and assuming roles and powers not delegated to the office".
She was removed as head of the women's league, a position she was handed three years ago at the start of her political career, which included the award of a phoney PhD from the University of Zimbabwe.
Although Grace Mugabe is reviled by the overwhelming majority of Zanu PF, there was reluctance to insult Mugabe as he was, as it was pointed out, the person who lead them to victory over Rhodesians in the bitter war which ended minority white rule.
Zanu-PF senior, and home affairs minister, Obert Mpofu said they were meeting with "a heavy heart" because Mugabe had served the country and contributed "many memorable achievements."
But Mpofu said that Mugabe's wife "and close associates have taken advantage of his frail condition" to loot national resources.
While the central committee was cheering all the proposals put to it - expulsion of many of the most senior members of the party and Mugabe’s cabinet, he as a few miles away, at State House meeting with several army generals negotiating an exit package: protection for his family, guaranteed access to his assets, and protection from prosecution for him and Grace Mugabe.
He was assisted in the negotiations by retired senior Jesuit, Father Fidelis Mukonori, who has been close to Mr Mugabe from before 1980 independence.
Harare was subdued on Sunday and streets were empty after the largest demonstration on Saturday.
Douglas Mwonzora, secretary-general of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, and an expert on Zimbabwe’s constitution said he and the party expected Mugabe to quit.
He said he hoped this would happen because impeachment via parliament would take time. “We need a two thirds majority of all members of the House of Assembly to be present at that vote,”he said.
Non governmental organisation, Veritas, experts on Zimbabwe’s laws and constitution said Sunday: “The only way for Mr Mugabe to be removed from office constitutionally outside a general election is for parliament to impeach him."
Mwonzora also said: “People should remember that Mugabe has said he would retire when the party wanted him to. And the party has spoken.”
Others said Mugabe should have obeyed his instincts as he recently threatened to retire most of the senior generals who are now in control of the country.
The MDC has massive support in Harare and most urban areas, reflected by the huge anti Mugabe demonstrations on Saturday in most cities and towns, particularly Harare.
So far there is no news of when Mnangagwa will emerge, or if he is in the country and it is not clear how Zanu PF will constitutionally restore his post as vice president of Zimbabwe.
Mugabe’s Zanu PF won a massive victory at Zimbabwe’s first democratic elections in 1980, under British supervision.
He made it clear, in those uncertain days, and with threats and actions by former Rhodesians with the then apartheid ruled South African security forces, that he wanted a one party state.
As acts of sabotage and threats against his life continued, many Zanu PF officials were killed. Mugabe retaliated by creating a North Korean trained brigade outside the national army, which slaughtered thousands of opposition supporters from 1983 until the then opposition, Zimbabwe African Peoples Union, ZAPU submitted to join the ruling Zanu PF party to stop the killings.
Although there is no proof, many blame Mnangagwa, acting under Mugabe’s orders for the atrocities. He is also blamed by many for violence against the MDC when its leader, Morgan Tsvangirai won elections in 2008 and was then unable to compete in a second round because so many of his supporters were killed or injured.
Independent Foreign Service