Harare, Nov 18 (IANS) Tens of thousands of Zimbabweans took to the streets of Harare on Saturday demanding the resignation of President Robert Mugabe, in what could spell the political end for the 93-year-old leader who has ruled the country for nearly four decades.
Waving placards with slogans like “Go, Go, Our General” and “No to Mugabe Dynasty”, the atmosphere on the streets of the capital was electric, just days after the Army put Mugabe under house arrest and detained some of his key political allies.
Protests turned to a celebration of the Army’s role in ending Mugabe’s grip on power. “It’s like Christmas,” said one marcher, Fred Mubay. He said Zimbabweans had been suffering for a long time and were now, finally, happy.
The rally, supported by the military, was deemed as a “solidarity march”. People waved Zimbabwean flags while others ran alongside Army tanks and hugged soldiers to show their gratitude, the Guardian reported.
One had a poster with a message for the President: “Leave Zimbabwe now!!!” while a vendor at an intersection held up a newspaper with the headline: “Mugabe cornered”.
The Army staged a takeover on Wednesday but Mugabe was still refusing to step down on Saturday, an official with direct knowledge of the ongoing negotiations between the President and the military said.
Mugabe was meeting Army Chief General Constantino Chiwenga to discuss what happens next, reports said. Chiwenga is pushing for Mugabe to step down and an interim President to take over.
The military and senior officials within the ruling Zanu-PF party now appear set on forcing Mugabe out within 48 hours.
A man arriving at the rally said: “As Zimbabweans, we are saying to our Army: “Thank you very much for the peaceful intervention.”
“For us, it’s about the end of authoritarian rule and we are going to take our Zimbabwe back,” he said. Protesters headed towards Mugabe’s office, the State House, to urge him to step down.
Some people staged a sit-down protest at the State House in front of a line of troops while opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai addressed the crowd to cheers.
By late Friday afternoon, all 10 of the country’s provincial Zanu-PF branches had passed motions of no-confidence in the President. This could lead to Mugabe being stripped of his office of President of the party by Sunday, one official told the Guardian.
The party branches were also calling for the resignation of the President’s wife, Grace Mugabe, as the women’s league leader.
Earlier on Friday, Mugabe, who had been confined to his luxurious residence in the upscale Harare neighbourhood of Borrowdale since the military takeover, attended a university graduation ceremony on the outskirts of the capital city.
His wife was not present. It had been thought she had left the country but it emerged later that she was in her husband’s Harare residence.
Saturday’s march was organised by the powerful associations representing veterans of the former British colony’s liberation wars.
The military’s intervention came after weeks of political turmoil in which Mugabe sacked his powerful Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, clearing the way for his wife to succeed him.
Mugabe has led Zimbabwe since it gained independence from Britain in 1980.
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged a quick return to civilian rule, but said the crisis was an opportunity for Zimbabwe to set itself on a new path.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing was hoping for stability and a peaceful “appropriate” resolution to the situation.
UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson warned against a transition from “one unelected tyrant” to another.
Post Source: Ians feed