Zimbabwe's ruling party to discuss firing Mugabe, source says

By David McKenzie, Angela Dewan and Nicole Chavez, CNN

    (CNN) -- Zimbabwe's ruling party will meet Sunday to pass a vote of no confidence in Robert Mugabe as its leader, a source said, a day after throngs took to the streets to demand the President's ouster.

A senior member of the influential organization of the nation's army veterans confirmed the planned ZANU-PF meeting to CNN.

The party had called for Mugabe and his wife, who serves as its women's league leader, to resign Friday, the main state newspaper The Herald reported.

Mugabe's rule appears effectively over after the military intervened Wednesday, saying it wanted to target the "criminals" around him.

The 93-year-old leader ruled the south African nation for nearly four decades before the army put him under house arrest and detained some of his key political allies.

Giddy Zimbabweans high-fived soldiers in a show of support as they flooded the streets of Harare on Saturday to demand Mugabe's resignation.

Some waved Zimbabwean flags and placards with slogans like "Mugabe Must Rest Now" and "No to Mugabe Dynasty," a sight considered rare because such gatherings have been banned for decades.

CNN did not see any police at the protest, which was organized by the army veterans.

Mugabe clings to power

Despite a series of rapidly evolving developments all aimed at his ouster, Mugabe refuses to step down, an official with direct knowledge of the negotiations between the President and the military told CNN. He is meeting with military officials again Sunday, state media reported.

Mugabe has been meeting with army chief Gen. Constantino Chiwenga, who has pushed him to step down and an interim president to take over, a source told CNN.

Whether Mugabe will resign is yet to be seen.

Zimbabwe's Indigenization Minister Patrick Zhuwao, who is also Mugabe's nephew, said the President "is willing to die for his principles."

"He is willing to die to protect the constitution," he added.

Mugabe is the world's oldest head of state, and planned to contest the 2018 presidential election, infamously claiming that "only God" could remove him from office.

The trigger

Mugabe set off a chain of events about two weeks ago when he fired Mnangagwa, a former ally with strong connections and the support of the military, who was widely tipped to become the country's next leader.

The timing, ahead of next year's presidential vote, fueled speculation that Mugabe was clearing the path for his wife to take over in the event of his retirement or death. The first lady became head of the ruling party's women's league a few years ago.

On Wednesday, a military spokesman announced on state television that the army had launched an operation to target "criminals" close to the President who were causing "social and economic suffering." Mugabe was confined to his multimillion dollar "Blue Roof" mansion.

Armed troops and tanks rolled through Harare as the army seized control of the city's key sites.

Mugabe's move was the final affront to powerful officials in the ruling ZANU-PF party, many of whom were backing Mnangagwa.

CNN has learned that Mnangagwa had been instrumental for some time in plans to seize control from Mugabe.

"This takeover was planned a long time ago by Emmerson Mnangagwa and secret discussions did take place with opposition about a succession plan including forcing out Mugabe," a senior opposition leader with direct knowledge of the talks told CNN.

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