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Zimbabwe crisis: Parliament starts process to impeach Robert Mugabe

Lawmakers have gathered in parliament as the ruling ZANU-PF party moves to start impeachment proceedings against President Robert Mugabe. Earlier, Zimbabwe's ousted vice president urged the 93-year-old to step down.

Zimbabwe's parliament began an impeachment process against President Robert Mugabe on Tuesday after he failed to resign.

The ruling ZANU-PF party made a motion to impeach Mugabe, who has been in power for 37 years, with the opposition MDC party seconding the move.

The 93-year-old leader is accused of being too old to rule and allowing his wife, Grace Mugabe, to "usurp" power.

Parliamentary speaker Jacob Mudenda said parliament will move to a hotel later in the afternoon to debate the motion and start the proceedings. It is not clear how long the process will take. Some lawmakers have suggested Mugabe could be voted out as early as Wednesday or Thursday.

Read moreOpinion: Zimbabwean Spring

Zimbabwe's three stage impeachment process:

— Impeachment motion must be passed by both houses of parliament

— A committee is set up to investigate charges against Mugabe and determine if there is evidence he should be impeached

— The Parliament and the senate then vote on impeachment. A two-thirds majority is needed to pass

Thousands gather outside parliament

Mugabe's once loyal ZANU-PF party and other lawmakers across the political spectrum have called on the 93-year-old leader to quit. 

A large crowd gathered outside parliament as the session opened with some carrying signs that read: "Mugabe must go."

A majority of Mugabe's government ministers boycotted a Tuesday Cabinet meeting called by the president, state media reported. Only five ministers and the attorney general turned up, while 17 others attended ZANU-PF talks to plan Mugabe's impeachment.

South African President Jacob Zuma and Angolan President Joao Lourenco announced that they would fly to Zimbabwe on Wednesday after holding talks with other leaders in the 15-nation Southern African Development Community (SADC) bloc. 

The leaders held an emergency summit on the instability in Zimbabwe and "noted with great concern the unfolding political situation," the SADC said in a statement.

Ex-VP urges Mugabe to resign

Sacked Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa joined a chorus of military leaders and politicians on Tuesday who have urged Mugabe to resign.

"The people of Zimbabwe have spoken with one voice and it is my appeal to President Mugabe that he should take heed of this clarion call by the people of Zimbabwe to resign, so that the country can move forward and preserve his legacy," Mnangagwa said in a statement.

Emmerson Mnangagwa, left, then Vice President of Zimbabwe chats with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (picture alliance/dpa/AP Photo/T. Mukwazhi)

Ex-VP Mnangagwa (L), known as 'The Crocodile' for his ruthlessness, is backed by the army

Mnangagwa, who is the favorite to replace Mugabe, said he fled the country because his life was threatened after being purged from the ruling ZANU-PF party. He confirmed that Mugabe invited him to return "for a discussion," but that he would not do so unless his safety is guaranteed.

"I told the president that I would not return home now until I am satisfied of my personal security, because of the manner and treatment given to me upon being fired," Mnangagwa said.

He added that "given the events that followed my dismissal I cannot trust my life in President Mugabe's hands."

Mnangagwa's firing led to last week's military takeover, setting off a chain of events to oust 93-year-old Mugabe from office. He is supported by the army and the influential war veterans association, both of which were afraid Mugabe might hand over power to his wife, Grace Mugabe.

On Sunday, ZANU-PF dismissed Mugabe as party leader and gave him a Monday deadline to step down. Mugabe ignored the ultimatum and surprised many by announcing plans to stay in power during a televised address to the nation.

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Uncertainty after Mugabe's refusal to resign

rs/rt (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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