Hunger Strike

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe is refusing to eat in protest against his confinement, one of his close family members has told MailOnline.

The frail 93-year-old has not accepted any food since Saturday, the source revealed, as he continues to be held under house arrest at his Blue Roof mansion.

Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao said on Saturday that Mr Mugabe was ‘willing to die for what is correct’.

Zimbabwe’s ruling ZANU-PF party will remove Mugabe as its leader at a special meeting of its central committee on Sunday and kick him out, the head of the powerful liberation war veterans said.

Chris Mutsvangwa, who has led the campaign to oust Zimbabwe’s ruler of the last 37 years, said the meeting would also reinstate ousted vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa and remove Mugabe’s wife, Grace, as head of the ZANU-PF Women’s League.

‘We are going all the way,’ Mutsvangwa said as he headed into the meeting, adding that Mugabe should just resign and leave the country. ‘He’s trying to bargain for a dignified exit but he should just smell the coffee and gap it.’

Mugabe is set to discuss his expected exit with army commander Constantino Chiwenga, who put him under the house arrest that he is protesting with a hunger strike.

The army threatened to let a mob lynch the dictator if he didn’t stand down, MailOnline revealed on Saturday. Now Mugabe has responded by rejecting all food.

‘If he dies under military custody, even by natural causes, then the army will be held responsible by the international community,’ the family member, who asked not to be named, said. ‘That is how the president is trying to put pressure on the army.’

The family member also said that Grace Mugabe was by her husband’s side at the Blue Roof mansion yesterday, and is thought to still be there today.

It comes as the Zanu-PF central committee met at the party HQ in central Harare to begin the formal process for expelling Mr Mugabe from his own party.

The meeting follows rumours that the dictator had fled the country after hundreds of thousands took to the streets to protest against his rule.

Video footage from protests obtained exclusively by MailOnline showed angry crowds tearing down a huge billboard of Mugabe outside the headquarters of the ruling Zanu-PF party in central Harare.

The footage shows dramatic scenes that would have been unthinkable just a few days ago.

While Mugabe could be removed as party leader, his title as president of Zimbabwe would still remain. He can only be removed from his presidency through resignation or impeachment, launched through a constitutional process.

‘What is left is just the technical detail of how he’s going to leave,’ former Zimbabwean finance minister Tendai Biti said. ‘Even if Zanu-PF does remove him – if they do have the power, which i doubt – that doesn’t amount to removing him as president of the country.

‘There has to be formal processes – either his own resignation or an impeachment.’

The talks with army commander Constantino Chiwenga are the second round of negotiations on an exit with a veneer of dignity as the military tries to avoid accusations of a coup.

Senior figures in Zanu-PF gathered at their headquarters in the capital, Harare, on Sunday ahead of an emergency meeting to discuss calls to expel longtime President Robert Mugabe as party leader.

Soldiers checked vehicles at the gate and a military vehicle parked inside the grounds as leaders converged in the area. The military has Mugabe under house arrest after moving in last week, angered by Mugabe’s firing of his longtime deputy.

Zimbabwe’s parliament will ‘definitely’ put in motion a process to impeach Mugabe, the main opposition’s parliamentary chief whip said on Sunday, adding that they have been in discussions with the Zanu-PF party to act jointly.

Zanu-PF is expected to continue with the process of formally expelling Mr Mugabe from the party after all ten of Zimbabwe’s provinces passed no-confidence motions against him on Friday.

Innocent Gonese with the MDC-T party told the Associated Press: ‘If Mugabe is not gone by Tuesday, then as sure as the sun rises from the east, impeachment process will kick in.’

The MDC-T has unsuccessfully tried to impeach Mugabe in the past, but now the ruling party has turned against him.

The army has also brought intense pressure to bear upon the 93-year-old, threatening to stand aside and allow him to be lynched if he does not stand down soon, a senior politician told MailOnline.

In an exclusive interview with MailOnline, Mutsvangwa previously revealed: ‘The army gave the dictator a message earlier [Saturday]. Either he steps down or they will let the people in to his mansion to take him.

‘The army is threatening to unleash the people and let Mugabe be lynched. The generals said they will not shoot the people for him. Instead, they will abandon their posts and leave him to his fate.’

Mr Mutsvangwa added: ‘At first, the army was holding him prisoner. Now they are protecting him from the people.’

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Harare on Saturday in a historic show of unity to demand an end to the 37-year reign of dictator Robert Mugabe.

Military helicopters flew low overhead as huge crowds marched into the centre of the capital city, waving Zimbabwean flags and chanting ‘remove the dictator’ and ‘Mugabe, our country is not your property’.

It was an unprecedented show of defiance and unity in this notoriously divided country, as ordinary Zimbabweans from across the political spectrum came together as one to oppose the dictator.

Some protesters shouted ‘Ngwena, Ngwena’, or ‘Crocodile, Crocodile’, in support of sacked vice-president Emmanuel ‘Crocodile’ Mnangagwa, the favourite to become the next leader.

Fiery speeches were delivered at the Harare football stadium to a crowd of hundreds of thousands after a day of chaotic anti-Mugabe parades through the city.

Several speakers shouted ‘Viva Zimbabwe’, to prolonged cheers and singing from the crowds, mixed with blasts of music over the loudspeakers.

‘Mugabe and his typist-cum-wife must go home,’ said Victor Matemadanda, the Secretary-General of the Powerful War Veterans’ Association.

‘Let’s go and take back the country from the State House.’

He added: ‘If he’s not at the State House, let’s go to the Blue Roof,’ referring to Mr Mugabe’s £7.5million mansion where he is under house arrest.

Oppah Muchinguri Kashiri, the country’s environment minister who was Mr Mugabe’s girlfriend in the Eighties and Nineties and has had physical fights with his wife Grace, said:

‘I thank you all for being resolute. Now let’s remain focussed and finish what we started. Let’s take Mugabe with a strong grip and remove him.’

The mass show of defiance comes as Mugabe has been dramatically thrown out of his own party after all ten provinces of Zimbabwe passed a no-confidence motion in the dictator.

It makes it almost impossible for him to continue to cling to power. The decision will be ratified on Sunday and put into effect next week.

Frank Mutsindikwa, 34, said: ‘These are tears of joy. I’ve been waiting all my life for this day. Free at last. We are free at last.’

Emmerson ‘the Crocodile’ Mnangagwa, the sacked Vice President who returned to Zimbabwe on Wednesday, will be installed as the Zanu-PF party leader after Mugabe is removed, it was confirmed on Saturday.

Mnangagwa, the former state security chief, is thought to be in line to head an interim post-Mugabe unity government that will focus on rebuilding ties with the outside world and stabilising an economy in freefall.

During protests Saturday, ecstatic crowds marched through central Harare, cheering and hugging soldiers, honking horns, dancing, and singing: ‘Bob, you have sold out the country, remember we are the ones who put you there and we are now removing you.’

Ordinary Zimbabweans said they felt like they were dreaming after the 37-year-old dictatorship crumbled before their eyes.

‘It’s like Christmas,’ said one marcher, Fred Mubay, who said Zimbabweans have been suffering for a long time.

Saturday’s protest represented a turning point for the southern African state, where for four decades the public criticism of Mr Mugabe has been met with brutal punishment and even death.

It came as Mr Mugabe was given an ultimatum of 24 hours to resign by the powerful National Liberation War Veterans Association. In a press conference, a spokesman for the group mocked the elderly dictator, saying: ‘Mugabe has no war background. He only came to the Front once. The closest Mugabe ever was to the fighting was 400km away.’

During the dictator’s rule, forced rallies were often staged to support him. By comparison, everybody attended Saturday’s march of their own free will and there was not a single counter-protestor coming out in support of Mr Mugabe.

There were fears that Saturday’s event may degenerate into violence, as happened in 2013 when crowds went on the rampage in Harare after an opposition rally.

The march began in a spirit of harmony, however, and the sense of liberation from the shackles of the dictator’s secret police was tangible.

Crowds gathered at football pitches close to the city centre and marched towards Freedom Square, formerly known as the Robert Mugabe Square, where a number of political leaders from all parties were to address demonstrators.

The historic rally was all the more remarkable for having been organised by Mr Mugabe’s own party, the Zanu-PF, which until Tuesday had treated the despot like a god.

All that changed Saturday as formerly loyal party members openly called Mr Mugabe a ‘dictator’ and united their efforts in trying to force him to stand down.

Activists armed with megaphones toured towns and villages all over the country in Zanu-PF branded vehicles, calling for as many people to attend the demonstration as possible.

Opposition parties followed the Zanu-PF’s lead, mobilising their grassroots network to ensure a major turnout amongst their own supporters.

It is thought that some of the money for mobilising demonstrators was provided by the army, which spearheaded the dramatic attempt to remove Mr Mugabe.

Buses were laid on by the Zanu-PF to ferry thousands of people to the capital to take part in the protest, thought to be the biggest demonstration of its kind in Zimbabwean history.

Mr Mugabe, meanwhile, remained defiant in his Blue Roof mansion, refusing to step down despite the massive pressure heaped upon him by his political rivals, foreign leaders and now his own people.

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