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Mugabe Appears Defiant In Sunday's Televised Address


The ruling political party in Zimbabwe has given Robert Mugabe an ultimatum, leave office or be impeached. It looks like Mugabe is ignoring that ultimatum. The 93-year-old president was expected to resign over the weekend. Instead, he vowed to continue to lead the country. Here's some of what he said in an address yesterday.


PRESIDENT ROBERT MUGABE: I, as the president of Zimbabwe and as their commander in chief, do acknowledge the issues they have drawn my attention to and do believe that these were raised in the spirit of honesty and out of deep and patriotic concern for the stability of our nation and for the welfare of our people.

MARTIN: So what does that mean - if you read between the lines of Mugabe's address? We are going to ask journalist Jeffrey Barbee. He is in Zimbabwe covering this story.

Hi, Jeffrey.


MARTIN: Mugabe didn't step down in this address. He doubled down, saying I appreciate what people are saying in this moment, but I'm not going anywhere. What is Zimbabwe's future in this moment? Is Mugabe leaving or staying?

BARBEE: Well, I think that the short answer to that is that, in the very short term, it's unknown. However, people that I've been speaking to today are convinced that these are the last days of Robert Mugabe's rule of Zimbabwe and now it's only a matter of time. And, you know, one guy, Promise (ph), who we'll hear from now - he's convinced that that's the case.

PROMISE: I never get anything from that statement. So I just wish the devil would send those black horses and take him to hell.

MARTIN: Take him to hell - wow.

BARBEE: Yes, exactly. And, you know, people are very vehemently opposed to him staying on a lot longer. But in the short term, it is a fact that people have come to accept today that it's going to take more than one or two days to see him gone if he does not resign. And, you know, one of those people was Viola (ph). And she had this to say.

VIOLA: I think the biggest change is the freedom - the same of peace and freedom. And yeah, like, people's faces have changed. You can see there's hope. Even after the last 24 hours, there's still hope. Yeah. And we are really believing that this is the time for lasting change.

MARTIN: So what does lasting change look like, Jeffrey? I mean, who is expected to take Mugabe's place when he leaves?

BARBEE: Well, the folks who are expecting him to step down and be replaced are hoping he will be replaced by a man named person Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is not exactly a democrat. However, that process that's unfolding here is going to take a lot more time than just a simple resignation as the nation had hoped last night.

MARTIN: So what else can you tell us about him? This is the ousted vice president who, as you say, is positioned to take over. I under - his nickname is The Crocodile, which sounds not quite democratic and also rather menacing. What is his history? What kind of ruler would he be?

BARBEE: Well, there's a lot of concern about the democratic credentials of Emmerson Mnangagwa. Now, Emmerson was known in the early years of Zimbabwe as the man who carried out the Gukurahundi, the elimination of Robert Mugabe's political rivals by massacre in Matabeleland in the early '80s here in Zimbabwe. Later, in 2008, when I was reporting here, then he was also in charge of the Joint Operations Command, which saw the MDC, who probably won the popular vote in the country, sort of chased down and chased out of power and taken and in some cases tortured and even killed.

MARTIN: So if this is the man who's going to take over after Robert Mugabe, a man who has ruled Zimbabwe with an iron fist - all kinds of human rights abuses have come during his tenure. I mean, is life going to necessarily get any better for Zimbabweans if Mnangagwa is the leader?

BARBEE: Yes, Rachel, I think that is the right question. Yeah, that's exactly the right question. Now, even though he was - you could think of him as Mugabe's enabler. But more than that is the fact that Zimbabwe is really on the brink now. I mean, it has had economic collapses. You could say it is a collapsing, failing state.

Now, I think the international community's hope is that Mnangagwa is smart man who understands this, he's put his weapons and his beatings behind him, and that the future of Zimbabwe with him at the helm would be brighter because he's a pragmatist. I'm not sure that there's any real information to back that up and is, beseeming (ph), many other revolutions around the world without a clear democratic process going forward, I think a lot of people in civil society here are watching this very carefully. And people have told us that they are going to be actively involved in trying to shape a more democratic Zimbabwe.

MARTIN: Grace Mugabe, Robert Mugabe's wife, had been thought to be someone who would be the next leader when Robert Mugabe stepped down. Has she lost all of her base of support?

BARBEE: Well, I think that Grace struggled with the people's support for a long time. But what she did have was political support among a group of younger ZANU-PF people who did not fight in the liberation struggle here. They were called the G40.

Now, they have been largely dispossessed of their party membership. And last night, we saw Grace basically fall from grace within the party and be stripped of her membership. So now, here in Zimbabwe, it's really a question of what will happen with Emmerson Mnangagwa and what will be Mugabe's great way to leave.

MARTIN: Journalist Jeffrey Barbee reporting from Zimbabwe this morning on all the political instability at this moment. Thanks so much.

BARBEE: Thanks so much, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.