Tens of thousands of jubilant Zimbabweans joined rallies on Saturday to celebrate the imminent departure of President Robert Mugabe, the only leader they’ve known since independence in 1980.
As Bloomberg reports, Mugabe triggered his own downfall by firing Emmerson Mnangagwa as his vice president last week, a move that prompted the military to intervene and place him under house arrest.
On Friday, the ruling party’s 10 provincial committees resolved to oust the 93-year-old president, a decision likely to be ratified at a meeting of its central executive on Sunday.
The nation’s parliament is due to reconvene on Tuesday and could impeach him should he remain steadfast in his refusal to resign.
In Harare, the capital, crowds gathered at Zimbabwe Grounds in the Highfield township and at Freedom Square in the city center, while smaller groups marched through the streets, singing and dancing.
A rally in Bulawayo, the second-largest city, also drew thousands of people. Some protesters draped themselves in the national flag and others embraced soldiers who kept watch on the festivities.
Several street signs bearing Mugabe’s name were ripped down...
"This is it, he must go,” said Ronald Mupfumi, a 29-year-old unemployed graduate who joined the throng in Harare’s streets.
“These guys made us suffer for a long time."
As a reminder, under Mugabe’s watch, the economy has imploded, leaving 95 percent of the workforce unemployed, according to Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions estimates, and forcing as many as 3 million people into exile.
“We are at the dawn of a new era,” Patrick Chinamasa, who Mugabe fired as finance minister last month, told the crowd who gathered in Highlands township. Mugabe “should resign forthwith. The criminals who surround him must be arrested and thrown in jail.”
Speaking at the same rally, Water and Climate Minister Oppah Muchinguridenounced the First Lady and called on the crowd to “march to State House to remove the tyrant.”
“If there is ever to be a Zimbabwean Spring, today’s marches are the first green shoots,” Charles Laurie, head of African analysis at Bath, U.K.-based Verisk Maplecroft, said by email.
“For the first time in 37 years, Zimbabweans stood today as a united people. The mass public demonstrations are intended to ensure there is no backsliding as the notoriously wily Mugabe seeks to negotiate an exit to the unprecedented political crisis.”
While hope is clearly high for a new and positive change, we have seen this picture before in Africa...
A bigger crowd cheered Gen. Idi Amin's rise in Uganda. 46 violenence-and-corruption-laden years & 7 coups on, Ugandans are still clamouring for a saviour. Hope against hope Zimbabweans fare a little better. pic.twitter.com/H2Ei34itTJ— Sam Akaki (@AkakiSam) November 18, 2017