Robert Mugabe is facing impeachment after he called on Zimbabwe to “move forward” instead of announcing his resignation as president.
The state television broadcast baffled viewers as he was expected to make a resignation announcement on Sunday after meeting with army generals following his dismissal as leader of the ruling Zanu-PF party.
He defied Zanu-PF and thousands of protesters by pledging to preside over the party’s next congress in December after he was told he had until noon local time on Monday to step down as president or face impeachment proceedings as early as Tuesday.
Mr Mugabe acknowledged “a range of concerns” in his speech but made no mention of his own position following an apparent coup by the army earlier in the week.
He said the events of the last few days were not a threat to the constitution or his authority as head of state.
He said recent developments within Zanu-PF were “understandable” but said it could not be guided by “bitterness”.
The 93-year-old told viewers we must “learn to forgive”.
He said: “Whatever the pros and cons of how they (the army) went about their operation, I do acknowledge their concerns.
“We must learn to forgive and resolve contradictions, real or perceived, in a comradely Zimbabwean spirit.”
He added: “The Government remains committed to improving the social and material conditions of the people.”
Chris Mustvangwa, the leader of Zimbabwe’s war veterans, said plans for impeachment would still go ahead and said protesters planned to take to the streets of Harare on Wednesday.
Zanu-PF’s chief whip Lovemore Matuke also said Mr Mugabe’s impeachment would still go ahead. He said: “The Central Committee decision stands until I am advised otherwise.”
Reacting to the speech on Sky News, Mr Mustvangwa said Mr Mugabe was “blind to what the people of Zimbabwe were saying to him”.
Zimbabwe’s opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said he was “baffled” by address amid the growing pressure for the president to stand down.
Sky News’ Senior Correspondent David Bowden said the situation was a “mess”.
Reacting to the TV address, he said: “It was an extraordinary ramble by an old man who seems to have just blazed on through… there was no hint of resignation. It was extraordinary and completely at odds with reality.”
The speech follows Zanu-PF’s former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa being appointed as the new leader of the party.
And Mr Mugabe’s wife Grace, who is hugely unpopular in the country, is being expelled by Zanu-PF.
Reacting to Mr Mugabe’s dismissal as party leader earlier in the day, his son Chatunga Bellarmine Mugabe insisted “you can’t fire a revolutionary leader” and said Zanu-PF was “nothing” without his dad.
He wrote on Facebook: “Gushungo will always remain the champion of champions! Proud of you Gushungo, proud of dad. Gushungo always and forever to death.”