IF Zimbabew watchers are correct, Robert Mugabe is expected to be dismissed as leader of Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party today, bringing to an end four decades of power which saw the country’s economy collapse as the 93-year-old accumulated assets worth millions.
Thousands of people marched yesterday to demand the removal of Mugabe, who was deserted by most of his allies when Zimbabwe’s generals placed him under house arrest last week, allowing him limited movement while talks on his exit from office unfold.
The army intervened after Mugabe sacked his deputy, signalling that he favoured his wife Grace as a successor. Zanu-PF is likely to reinstate ousted Emmerson Mnangagwa as vice-president tomorrow and dismiss Mugabe.
Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao claims his uncle has “hardly slept” since the Zimbabwe military seized power and insisted army chiefs engineered protests in the capital Harare to disguise the “coup”. Zhuwao said Mugabe has no intention of stepping down in order to “legitimise the military coup”, adding that the leader and his 52-year-old wife are “ready to die for what is correct”.
South Africa President Jacob Zuma has said he is “cautiously optimistic” that the situation in Zimbabwe will be resolved “amicably”.
Zimbabweans who want Mugabe to leave immediately demonstrated on main streets in central Harare, a gathering which would have drawn an immediate police crackdown days earlier.
The military has backed protestors but blocked thousands of people who tried to march on President Mugabe’s official residence.
Some had posters with an image of the military commander who swept in last week and put Mugabe under house arrest, with the slogan: “Go, go, our general!!!”
Marchers handed flags to soldiers, who accepted and waved. “It’s like Christmas,” said demonstrator Fred Mubay, who said Zimbabweans have been suffering for a long time.
Veterans of the long liberation war against white minority rule, once close allies of Mugabe, took part in the demonstration, along with opposition activists who have faced police crackdowns by the Mugabe government.
The country’s state-run broadcaster said yesterday the country is “free and liberated” and showed footage of speeches at a rally where speakers declared “this is the new Zimbabwe”.
One driver was so jubilant that he got out of his moving car and danced in front of it for a couple of minutes as the empty vehicle coasted slowly down a street lined with cheering crowds.
Some of the demonstrators removed street signs with the name of President Robert Mugabe and stomped on them.
Former Zimbabwe cabinet member David Coltart said a “massive march” also took place in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe’s second city.
He said: “I never thought I would see the day as we marched past central police station without being arrested. Amazing scenes.”
Jubilant Zimbabweans in London spoke yesterday of their hopes for their country outside Zimbabwe House on The Strand in central London, as they celebrated what they termed “our Independence Day”.
Jackie Luvv, who left her homeland 20 years ago, said: “We are here to see a new Zimbabwe, the rebirth of Zimbabwe. We are calling it our Independence Day.”
The 34-year-old said Zimbabwe under Mugabe’s rule offered nothing for her generation.
She added: “We are certain that he is leaving. We are going to do it peacefully though. The world is watching.”
Her schoolfriend Audrey Charowa said she had seen people from across the political spectrum of Zimbabwe at the gathering in London, reflecting unity among those wanting Mugabe to leave office.
She said: “I’m here because we have not had democracy in Zimbabwe since the ‘80s. We’ve never been able to protest. The police always moved in in their riot gear.”
Many in the crowd in London waved Zimbabwe flags and carried placards reading “One Zimbabwe, one nation” and “Bob’s not my uncle”.
Karen Insalata, who brought her 15-year-old daughter Georgia to Zimbabwe House, said: “We never thought this day would happen.”
Asked about the future of her country she said: “Anything is better than Mugabe. It’s a bit like anything is better than Trump. It’s the same. Every single one of us has been affected by this guy.”