Zimbabwe's top general has said that talks were planned between President Robert Mugabe and former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mr Mnangagwa’s sacking by the 93-year-old leader two weeks ago triggered a coup.

General Constantino Chiwenga, head of the armed forces and leader of the takeover codenamed "Operation Restore Legacy", told a media conference he was encouraged by contact between the two men, and Mr Mnangagwa would be back in the country soon.

"Thereafter, the nation will be advised on the outcome of talks between the two," he said, reading from a statement.

Earlier, the country's ruling ZANU-PF party said in its impeachment motion that Mr Mugabe is to blame for the "unprecedented economic tailspin" of the past 15 years.

The motion also said that he had shown disrespect for the rule of law and that he is the source of instability by the continuous dismissal of members of his cabinet.

Impeachment could see Mr Mugabe kicked out by a vote in parliament in under a day and would represent an ignominious end to the career of the "Grand Old Man" of African politics, who was once lauded across the continent as an anti-colonial hero.

On paper, the process is relatively long-winded, involving a joint sitting of the Senate and National Assembly, then a nine-member committee of senators, then another joint sitting to confirm his dismissal with a two-thirds majority.

However, constitutional experts said ZANU-PF had the numbers and could push it through in as little as 24 hours.

"They can fast-track it. It can be done in a matter of a day," said John Makamure, executive director of the Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust, an NGO that works with the parliament in Harare.


Read more
Zimbabwe crisis: What we know
Media and the military
The key players


Mr Mugabe's demise, now almost inevitable, is likely to send shockwaves across Africa, where a number of entrenched strongmen from Uganda's Yoweri Museveni to Democratic Republic of Congo's Joseph Kabila are facing mounting pressure to step aside.

Mr Mugabe was once admired, even in the West, as the "Thinking Man's Guerrilla", a world away from his image in his latter years as the stereotypical African dictator proudly declaring he held a "degree in violence".

As the economy crumbled and opposition to his rule grew in the late 1990s, Mr Mugabe tightened his grip around the southern African country, seizing white-owned farms, unleashing security forces to crush dissent and speaking of ruling until he was 100.

ZANU-PF's action follows a weekend of high drama in Harare, culminating in reports that Mugabe had agreed yesterday to stand down - only for him to dash the hopes of millions of his countrymen in a bizarre and rambling national address.

Flanked by the generals who sent in tanks and troops last week to seize the state broadcaster, Mugabe spoke of the need for national unity and farming reform, but made no mention of his fate, leaving the nation of 16 million people dumbstruck.

"I am baffled. It's not just me, it's the whole nation," shocked opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai told Reuters. "He's playing a game."

Two senior government sources told Reuters that Mr Mugabe had agreed yesterday to step aside and CNN said this morning that his resignation letter had been drawn up, with terms that included immunity for him and his 52-year-old wife Grace.

It was her tilt at power via the purging of former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa this month that forced the army to send in the troops.

Two other political sources said that Mr Mugabe had indeed agreed to resign but ZANU-PF did not want him to quit in front of the military, an act that would have made its mid-week intervention look like a coup.

"It would have looked extremely bad if he had resigned in front of those generals. It would have created a huge amount of mess," one senior source within ZANU-PF said.

Another political source said the speech was meant to "sanitise" the military's action, which has paved the way for Mr Mnangagwa, a former security chief known as The Crocodile, to take over.

Moments after his address, war veterans' leader Chris Mutsvangwa, who has spearheaded an 18 month campaign to unseat Mr Mugabe, called for protests suggesting a potential popular uprising if the president refused to go.

On Saturday, hundreds of thousands took to the streets of Harare to celebrate Mr Mugabe's expected downfall and hail a new era for their country, whose economy has imploded under the weight of economic mismanagement, including 500 billion percent hyperinflation in 2008.