Zimbabwe was plunged further into crisis as its defiant president Robert Mugabe shrugged off calls to resign.
The 93-year-old dictator, who has ruled since 1980, baffled the nation by vowing to stay on during a rambling live TV address.
He was expected to announce his exit having been sacked hours earlier as leader of his Zanu-PF party on 19 November.
Mr Mugabe was told to resign by noon 20 November or face being impeached in parliament on 21 November.
Despite tens of thousands of protesters calling for him to go, he insisted he would still be in charge at Zanu-PF’s conference.
Millions of viewers across the nation and the world were kept in suspense as he became confused and lost his place several times.
But his intentions became clear when he said: ‘The conference is due in a few weeks from now.
‘I will preside over its processes, which must not be possessed by any acts calculated to undermine it or compromise the outcomes in the eyes of the public. We cannot be guided by bitterness.’ Mr Mugabe acknowledged criticisms of him but did not refer to the calls for him to resign.
Victor Matemadanda, the veterans’ group’s secretary general, added: ‘He is playing games with the people. He agrees to go and then plays games with us like that at the last minute.’
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said: ‘I am baffled. It’s not just me, it’s the whole nation. He’s playing a game. He has let the whole nation down.’ Mr Mugabe, whose violent and oppressive regime has brought about the economic collapse of Zimbabwe, was placed under house arrest with wife Grace when the army seized control on 15 November’.
Generals said it was a temporary measure to stop ‘criminal elements’ around him from harming the country.