Zimbabwe ruling party says Mugabe goes or impeachment starts

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe’s ruling party Central Committee fired longtime President Robert Mugabe as party leader Sunday, saying if he doesn’t resign as the country’s leader by noon Monday it will begin impeachment proceedings when Parliament resumes the following day. Clinging to his now virtually powerless post, Mugabe discussed his expected exit with the army commander who put him under house arrest days ago, in a second round of negotiations. But the world’s oldest head of state was increasingly isolated in his lavish mansion, with allies departing, arrested or, like his wife, now expelled from the ruling party.

Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, right, meets with Defence Forces Generals at State House, in Harare, Sunday, Nov, 19, 2017. Members of the ZANU PF Central committee fired Mugabe as chief and replaced him with dismissed deputy President, Emmerson Mnangagwa on Sunday. (AP Photo)

Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, meets with Defence Forces Generals in Harare at State House , Sunday, Nov, 19, 2017. Members of the ZANU PF Central committee fired Mugabe as chief and replaced him with dismissed deputy President, Emmerson Mnangagwa on Sunday. (AP Photo)

Members of the Zanu pf Central committee react after the ruling party fired President Robert Mugabe, in Harare, Sunday Nov, 19, 2017. Zimbabwe’s ruling party Central Committee fired longtime President Robert Mugabe as party leader Sunday, saying that if he doesn’t resign as the country’s president by noon Monday they will begin impeachment proceedings when Parliament resumes the following day. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

An old torn election sticker, with a portrait of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, on a building in Harare Sunday, Nov. 19 2017. Zimbabwe’s ruling party Central Committee begun removing Mugabe as party leader and replacing him with recently fired Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa. (AP Photo)

Pedestrians check their mobiles as they walk past a newspaper stand on a street in downtown Harare, Zimbabwe Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. Zimbabwe’s ruling party Central Committee says longtime President Robert Mugabe must resign as president by noon Monday or impeachment proceedings will start. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Members of the Zanu pf Central committee react after the ruling party fired Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe as party chief, in Harare, Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. Zimbabwe’s ruling party Central Committee fired longtime President Robert Mugabe as party leader Sunday, saying that if he doesn’t resign as the country’s president by noon Monday they will begin impeachment proceedings when Parliament resumes the following day. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Graffiti in support of the ruling ZANU PF party on a building in Harare Sunday, Nov. 19 2017. Zimbabwe’s ruling party Central Committee begun removing President Robert Mugabe as party leader and replacing him with recently fired Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa. (AP Photo)

Members of the Zanu pf Central committee react after the ruling party fired Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe as party chief, in Harare, Sunday Nov, 19, 2017. Zimbabwe’s ruling party Central Committee fired longtime President Robert Mugabe as party leader Sunday, saying that if he doesn’t resign as the country’s president by noon Monday they will begin impeachment proceedings when Parliament resumes the following day. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

FILE – In this Aug. 30 2017 file photo, Zimbabwean Deputy President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, greets party supporters at a ZANU-PF rally in Gweru, Zimbabwe. A Zimbabwe ruling party official confirmed Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017 that the Central Committee has fired President Robert Mugabe as party leader and replaced him with Mnangagwa. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, File)

People walk past a partly torn down ruling party banner that showed Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s face at the Zanu pf headquarters in Harare, Zimbabwe Sunday Nov. 19, 2017. Clinging to his now virtually powerless post, longtime President Mugabe on Sunday was set to discuss his expected exit with the army commander who put him under house arrest, while the ruling party prepared to recall the world’s oldest head of state as its leader. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Pedestrians walk past a newspaper stand on a street in downtown Harare, Zimbabwe Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. Zimbabwe’s ruling party Central Committee says longtime President Robert Mugabe must resign as president by noon Monday or impeachment proceedings will start. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

An old ripped election banner bearing a portrait of President Robert Mugabe outside the headquarters of the ruling ZANU PF building in Harare Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. Zimbabwe’s ruling party Central Committee begun removing President Robert Mugabe as party leader and replacing him with recently fired Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa. (AP Photo)

FILE – In this Friday Nov. 17, 2017 file photo, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe attends a graduation ceremony on the outskirts of Harare. A Zimbabwe ruling party official confirmed Sunday, Nov. 19 2017 that the Central Committee has fired Mugabe as party leader and replaced him with the recently dismissed Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

FILE – In this Friday Nov. 17, 2017 file photo, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe attends a graduation ceremony on the outskirts of Harare. A Zimbabwe ruling party official confirmed Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017 that the Central Committee has fired Mugabe as party leader and replaced him with the recently dismissed Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, File)

FILE – In this Friday Nov. 17, 2017 file photo, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe attends a graduation ceremony on the outskirts of Harare. A Zimbabwe ruling party official confirmed Sunday, Nov. 19 2017 that the Central Committee has fired Mugabe as party leader and replaced him with the recently dismissed Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis, File)

Members of the International Apostolic Ejuwel Jekenisheni Church dance, sing, pray, and play drums during a morning service at the open-air church on the outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. A day after huge crowds rallied peacefully in the capital for 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe to step down, Zimbabweans around the country attended Sunday church services praying for peace and the future of their country. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Pastors from the Apostolical Holy Church sing and pray for their country on top of a large rock known locally as “God’s Footprint” on the outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. A day after huge crowds rallied peacefully in the capital for 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe to step down, Zimbabweans around the country attended Sunday church services praying for peace and the future of their country. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Members of the International Apostolic Ejuwel Jekenisheni Church dance, sing, pray, and play drums during a morning service at the open-air church on the outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. A day after huge crowds rallied peacefully in the capital for 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe to step down, Zimbabweans around the country attended Sunday church services praying for peace and the future of their country. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Pastors from the Apostolical Holy Church sing and pray for their country on top of a large rock known locally as “God’s Footprint” on the outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. A day after huge crowds rallied peacefully in the capital for 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe to step down, Zimbabweans around the country attended Sunday church services praying for peace and the future of their country. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Members of the International Apostolic Ejuwel Jekenisheni Church dance, sing, pray, and play drums during a morning service at the open-air church on the outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. A day after huge crowds rallied peacefully in the capital for 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe to step down, Zimbabweans around the country attended Sunday church services praying for peace and the future of their country. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Members of the ZANU PF Central Committee stand during a meeting at the party headquarters in Harare, Sunday Nov, 19, 2017. A day after huge crowds rallied peacefully in the capital, Harare, for the 93 year old Mugabe to go, the ruling party’s Central Committee is meeting on demands by provincial branches to recall President Robert Mugabe as party leader. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

A portrait of Zimbabwean President, Robert Mugabe, hangs at the ZANU PF party headquarters in Harare, Sunday Nov, 19, 2017. A day after huge crowds rallied peacefully in the capital, Harare, for the 93 year old Mugabe to go, the ruling party’s Central Committee is meeting on demands by provincial branches to recall President Robert Mugabe as party leader. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Members of the International Apostolic Ejuwel Jekenisheni Church dance, sing, pray, and play drums during a morning service at the open-air church on the outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. A day after huge crowds rallied peacefully in the capital for 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe to step down, Zimbabweans around the country attended Sunday church services praying for peace and the future of their country. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Members of the International Apostolic Ejuwel Jekenisheni Church dance, sing, pray, and play drums during a morning service at the open-air church on the outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. A day after huge crowds rallied peacefully in the capital for 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe to step down, Zimbabweans around the country attended Sunday church services praying for peace and the future of their country. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Members of the International Apostolic Ejuwel Jekenisheni Church dance, sing, pray, and play drums during a morning service at the open-air church on the outskirts of Harare, Zimbabwe Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. A day after huge crowds rallied peacefully in the capital for 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe to step down, Zimbabweans around the country attended Sunday church services praying for peace and the future of their country. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

A bus belonging to the Zanu pf party is parked outside the party headquarters in Harare, Zimbabwe Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. Clinging to his now virtually powerless post, longtime Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe on Sunday was set to discuss his expected exit with the army commander who put him under house arrest, while the ruling party prepared to recall the world’s oldest head of state as its leader. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Members of the ZANU PF Central Committee attend a meeting at the party headquarters in Harare, Sunday Nov, 19, 2017. A day after huge crowds rallied peacefully in the capital, Harare, for the 93 year old Mugabe to go, the ruling party’s Central Committee is meeting on demands by provincial branches to recall President Robert Mugabe as party leader. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

Protesters demanding President Robert Mugabe stand down ride in the back of a car with a placard “Rest in peace Mugabe” as they drive towards State House in Harare, Zimbabwe Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. In a euphoric gathering that just days ago would have drawn a police crackdown, crowds marched through Zimbabwe’s capital on Saturday to demand the departure of President Robert Mugabe, one of Africa’s last remaining liberation leaders, after nearly four decades in power. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

A happy protester pulls a face as he and others stand under a large national flag, at a demonstration of tens of thousands at Zimbabwe Grounds in Harare, Zimbabwe Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. Opponents of Mugabe are demonstrating for the ouster of the 93-year-old leader who is virtually powerless and deserted by most of his allies. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Zimbabwean soldiers bump fists with joyful protesters thanking them near Zimbabwe Grounds in Harare, Zimbabwe Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. Opponents of Mugabe are demonstrating for the ouster of the 93-year-old leader who is virtually powerless and deserted by most of his allies. Writing in Shona on poster refers to Mugabe in a respectful way saying “Go and rest now”. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

A crowd of thousands of protesters demanding President Robert Mugabe stand down gather in front of an army cordon on the road leading to State House in Harare, Zimbabwe Saturday, Nov. 18, 2017. In a euphoric gathering that just days ago would have drawn a police crackdown, crowds marched through Zimbabwe’s capital on Saturday to demand the departure of President Robert Mugabe, one of Africa’s last remaining liberation leaders, after nearly four decades in power. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe’s ruling party Central Committee fired longtime President Robert Mugabe as party leader Sunday, saying if he doesn’t resign as the country’s leader by noon Monday it will begin impeachment proceedings when Parliament resumes the following day.

Clinging to his now virtually powerless post, Mugabe discussed his expected exit with the army commander who put him under house arrest days ago, in a second round of negotiations. But the world’s oldest head of state was increasingly isolated in his lavish mansion, with allies departing, arrested or, like his wife, now expelled from the ruling party.

A day after huge crowds rallied peacefully in the capital, Harare, for the 93-year-old Mugabe to go, members of the ZANU-PF party’s Central Committee stood, cheered and sang as Mugabe was recalled. Meeting chair Obert Mpofu referred to him as “outgoing president” and called it a “sad day” for Mugabe after 37 years in power.

“He has been our leader for a long time and we have all learned a great deal from him,” Mpofu said. But Mugabe “surrounded himself with a wicked cabal” that brought him down.

The meeting replaced Mugabe as party chief with the vice president whose firing nearly two weeks ago led the military to step in, and recalled the unpopular first lady Grace Mugabe as head of the women’s league.

That former vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is expected to lead a new government after the Central Committee made him its nominee to take over as the country’s president when Mugabe goes. Without the military’s intervention, the first lady likely would have replaced Mnangagwa as vice president and been in a position to succeed her husband.

The Central Committee accused the first lady of “preaching hate, divisiveness and assuming roles and powers not delegated to the office.” The committee’s decisions will be formalized at a special party congress next month.

Impeaching the president is the next step when Parliament resumes Tuesday, and lawmakers will “definitely” put the process in motion, the main opposition’s parliamentary chief whip told The Associated Press.

Innocent Gonese with the MDC-T party said they had been in discussions with the ruling party to act jointly.

“If Mugabe is not gone by Tuesday, then as sure as the sun rises from the east, impeachment process will kick in,” Gonese said.

The Central Committee also expelled several high-level members close to the first lady, including minister of higher education Jonathan Moyo, finance minister Ignatious Chombo, Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao, local government minister Saviour Kasukuwere, foreign affairs minister Walter Mzembi and several others.

Mugabe’s talks with army commander Constantino Chiwenga were the second round of negotiations on an exit as the military tries to avoid accusations of a coup. The state-run Zimbabwe Herald newspaper published photos of the meeting, with few details.

Zimbabwean officials have not revealed details of the talks, but the military appears to favor a voluntary resignation by Mugabe to maintain a veneer of legality in the political transition. Mugabe, in turn, could be using whatever leverage he has left to try to preserve his legacy as one of Africa’s liberation leaders or even protect himself and his family from possible prosecution.

Chris Mutsvangwa, head of the country’s liberation war veterans, vowed to “bring back the crowd” if the president didn’t step aside but said he was concerned that the military could end up opening fire to protect Mugabe from protesters.

“We would expect that Mugabe would not have the prospect of the military shooting at people, trying to defend him,” Mutsvangwa said. “The choice is his.”

Sunday’s negotiations did not appear to include the South African government delegation that took part in the first round. The southern African regional bloc will hold a four-country summit in Angola on Tuesday to discuss the Zimbabwe situation.

On Saturday, most of Harare’s population of 1.6 million poured into the streets in an anti-Mugabe demonstration that just days ago would have brought a police crackdown.

They clambered onto tanks moving slowly through the crowds, took selfies with soldiers and surged in the thousands toward the State House building where Mugabe holds official functions, a symbol of the rule of the man who took power after independence from white minority rule in 1980.

The euphoria came after years of watching the once-prosperous African nation fall into decay, with a collapsing economy, repression of free speech, disputed elections and international sanctions.

Even as concerns remained about who next would be in charge and what freedoms might be available if the military lingers in power — or if Mnangagwa succeeds his longtime ally Mugabe as leader — people reveled in the rare chance to express themselves freely.

Let us have this moment, Zimbabweans said. If the next leader becomes trouble, they vowed to return to the streets again.