RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Zimbabwe's president faces impeachment today. Robert Mugabe has refused to resign since a military takeover last week. This all started after Mugabe fired his former vice president, prompting concern that Mugabe's wife would seize power instead. We've been listening to Zimbabweans react to all this. Here is Christopher Mutsvangwa. He's the leader of Zimbabwe's war veterans.
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CHRISTOPHER MUTSVANGWA: He has had 37 years in power. He shouldn't even be there for another 37 seconds.
MARTIN: He shouldn't even be there for another 37 seconds, he said there. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton has been covering this story. She joins us from Johannesburg. Hi, Ofeibea.
OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Greetings.
MARTIN: So impeachment proceedings happening today. What does that look like?
QUIST-ARCTON: What we understand is that the governing party ZANU PF, which ousted Robert Mugabe as its leader over the weekend, has begun to consult all the members because of course it's Parliament that will actually carry out the impeachment if it happens - and it's likely to. And that was - Parliament was resuming today.
Meanwhile, can I just say, Rachel, that President Mugabe - who has been under house arrest for the past week since the military took over - has called a Cabinet meeting. Would you believe it? So...
QUIST-ARCTON: ...You know, some people say, oh, this old man is gaga at 93. Many other people say Mugabe knows exactly what he's doing.
QUIST-ARCTON: He is a political survivor. He is a political fox, and he is going to stand his ground and not stand down.
MARTIN: But does he actually believe he'll survive this, or he just doesn't want to be seen as caving?
QUIST-ARCTON: Is it that or is it that he is going to - as his opponents within his governing party are using - try to use the Constitution to stay on? Now they're saying that President Mugabe has brought economic despondency and also that he has allowed his wife, the first lady, Grace Mugabe, who has unbridled political ambition and wanted to become vice president, we're told - and that is why Mugabe sacked one of his vice presidents, Emmerson Mnangagwa - that he has allowed his wife to usurp power. And these are the reasons they are going to use to try and get rid of him as president of Zimbabwe after 37 years.
MARTIN: All right, so you mentioned the ousted vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa. Is it a sure thing that he would succeed Robert Mugabe after he's impeached?
QUIST-ARCTON: No. He is now the new head of the governing party. That also happened at the weekend. ZANU PF decided that he was going to now lead the party. He has the backing of the army.
Let me tell you a little bit about Emmerson Mnangagwa. He is - really he and Mugabe are birds of a feather. They are part of the liberation war for independence. Emmerson Mnangagwa was Mugabe's bodyguard, he's known as his enforcer. He's called the crocodile because he's said to be so astute politically.
So these are men who have walked the same road for the past 37 years almost, until the ousting of Mnangagwa as vice president in favor, we hear, of Grace Mugabe. So many Zimbabweans are saying, well, maybe we're going to have to put up with him even though he is known for repression and the killings of thousands - responsible for the killings of thousands of people in Matabeleland in the '80s under independence.
He is also astute economically, and it looks as if he might help Zimbabwe back on the road to some sort of economic prosperity. So they might have to live with Emmerson Mnangagwa, despite his checkered history.
MARTIN: But I hear you saying even though he's a political animal and brutal in his own ways, he could might make life better for Zimbabweans?
QUIST-ARCTON: Zimbabweans say he couldn't be worse than Robert Mugabe. But they also say...
MARTIN: That's not a ringing endorsement.
QUIST-ARCTON: ...Is it going to be Emmerson Mnangagwa or is it going to be the military leading? These are the big unanswered questions after the euphoria last week.
MARTIN: NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton. Thanks so much, Ofeibea.
QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure. Thank you, Rachel.
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