President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party called on Friday for Mugabe to resign, a clear sign that the aging leader's authority has collapsed after the army takeover.

On the streets of the capital, Zimbabweans let their emotions run free as they spoke of political and economic change after two decades of repression and deepening hardship. November, 18, 2017
On the streets of the capital, Zimbabweans let their emotions run free as they spoke of political and economic change after two decades of repression and deepening hardship. November, 18, 2017 (Reuters)

Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party will meet on Sunday to dismiss President Robert Mugabe and reinstate the vice-president he dismissed, Emmerson Mnangagwa, two party sources told Reuters on Saturday.

The sources said a party central committee meeting scheduled for 10:30 a.m. (0830 GMT) would also dismiss 93-year-old Mugabe's preferred successor, his wife Grace, from her role as head of the ZANU-PF Women's League.

Mugabe's 37-year rule has been effectively at an end since the army seized control on Wednesday, confining him to his residence, saying it wanted to target the "criminals" around him.

Shortly after the sources revealed the meeting, a motorcade left Mugabe's official residence in the capital Harare to boos and jeers from onlookers, although a security said Mugabe was not inside.

Hundreds of thousands of people had flooded the streets of Harare singing, dancing and hugging soldiers in an outpouring of elation at Mugabe's demise, while others marched towards his residence.

The marches will cap an unprecedented week in which generals seized power and put Mugabe under house arrest in a stunning turnaround for the president who has ruled since 1980.

"These are tears of joy," Frank Mutsindikwa, 34, said, holding aloft the Zimbabwean flag. "I've been waiting all my life for this day. Free at last. We are free at last."

Pointedly, the military said it "fully supports" a "solidarity march" - apparently separate from the ZANU PF event - in Harare on Saturday, part of an apparent groundswell of anti-Mugabe sentiment unleashed by the dramatic events of the past few days.

Mounting pressure

Mugabe appeared publicly for the first time at a pre-planned graduation ceremony in Harare on Friday, further stoking questions over the status of his discussions with General Constantino Chiwenga, who led the military power grab.

Mugabe, at Zimbabwe's helm since independence from Britain in 1980, faces the starkest challenge ever to his rule after the army seized power on Wednesday, saying it was targeting "criminals" around the nonagenarian leader.

TRT World spoke to Harare-based journalist Privilege Musvanhiri.

ZANU PF called on Friday for Mugabe to resign, the main state newspaper The Herald reported, a clear sign that the ageing leader's authority has collapsed after the army takeover.

The newspaper said that ZANU PF branches in all 10 provinces had met and had also called for Mugabe's wife Grace, whose ambitions to succeed her husband triggered the political crisis, to resign from the party.

"If he becomes stubborn, we will arrange for him to be fired on Sunday," a senior member of ZANU PF said. "When that is done, it's impeachment on Tuesday."

The Herald reported that ZANU PF would convene a special Central Committee meeting on Sunday to "realign the revolutionary party with current political developments."

Zimbabwe was set for more political turmoil November 18 with protests planned as veterans of the independence war, activists and ruling party leaders called publicly for President Robert Mugabe to resign. November, 18, 2017
Zimbabwe was set for more political turmoil November 18 with protests planned as veterans of the independence war, activists and ruling party leaders called publicly for President Robert Mugabe to resign. November, 18, 2017 (AFP)

Army wants Mugabe to go

The army appears to want Mugabe to go quietly and allow a transition to Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose sacking last week as vice president sparked the army action.

A goal of the generals is to prevent Mugabe handing power to his wife, Grace, 41 years his junior, who appeared on the cusp of power after Mnangagwa was pushed out.

The police have shown no resistance, while Chris Mutsvangwa, the leader of Zimbabwe's influential war veterans, said on Friday that Mugabe would not be allowed to resist the military and remain in power.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace attend a meeting of his ruling ZANU PF party's youth league in Harare, Zimbabwe, October 7, 2017
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace attend a meeting of his ruling ZANU PF party's youth league in Harare, Zimbabwe, October 7, 2017 (Reuters)

Mugabe is revered by some as an elder statesman and independence leader but also reviled by many in Africa and abroad who accuse him of resorting to violence to retain power while running a once promising economy into the ground.

The economy collapsed after the seizure of white-owned farms in 2000. Unemployment is now running at nearly 90 percent and chronic shortages of hard currency have triggered inflation, with the prices of imports rising as much as 50 percent a month.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies