Zimbabwe army on Saturday stopped a crowd it was marching with in a Harare protest calling for the downfall of tyrant Robert Mugabe.
The crowd started by marching to state house and later resolved to march on Mugabe’s private home in the capital.
The demonstrators, participating in nationwide protests calling for the 93-year-old veteran leader to step aside after the army took power earlier this week, staged a sit-down protest in the road after being halted by the troops.
The crowd got within 200 metres (220 yards) of the gates to the complex that has been the nerve centre of Mugabe’s authoritarian rule, as large protests swept through the capital.
“This is not fair. Why are the soldiers preventing us to march to State House?” Rutendo Maisiri, an unemployed 26-year-old woman said. “It is wrong. We will stay put.”
Mugabe and his wife Grace are “ready to die for what is correct” and have no intention of stepping down in order to legitimise this week’s military coup, his nephew, Patrick Zhuwao, said on Saturday.
Speaking to Reuters from a secret location in South Africa, Zhuwao said Mugabe had hardly slept since the military seized power on Wednesday but his health was otherwise “good”.
Meanwhile South African President Jacob Zuma said that the African region was committed to supporting “the people of Zimbabwe” after a military takeover and that he was cautiously optimistic that the situation there could be resolved amicably.
Zuma made the comments in the South African city of Durban as thousands of Zimbabweans celebrated the expected downfall of President Robert Mugabe in the streets of Harare.
Earlier in the day tens of thousands of people flooded the streets of the capital singing, dancing and hugging soldiers in an outpouring of elation as Mugabe’s rule comes to an end.
They even took off moments to pose for selfies as they chanted and marched on.
In scenes reminiscent of the downfall of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989, men, women and children on Saturday ran alongside the armoured cars and troops that stepped in this week to oust the only ruler Zimbabwe has known since independence in 1980.
The 93-year-old Mugabe has been under house arrest in his lavish “Blue Roof” compound in Harare, from where he has watched support from his Zanu-PF party, security services and people evaporate in less than three days.
Emotions ran over on Harare’s streets as Zimbabweans spoke of a second liberation for the former British colony, alongside their dreams of political and economic change after two decades of deepening repression and hardship.
“These are tears of joy,” Frank Mutsindikwa, 34, told Reuters, holding aloft the Zimbabwean flag. “I’ve been waiting all my life for this day. Free at last. We are free at last.”
Mugabe’s downfall is likely to send shock waves 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.
The secretary-general of Zimbabwe’s War Veterans Association, Victor Matemadanda, called on those at an anti-Mugabe rally to march on Mugabe’s residence, and live television footage showed hundreds of protesters marching in that direction.
“Let us now go and deliver the message that grandfather Mugabe and his typist-cum-wife should go home,” Matemadanda told the crowd in the Harare township of Highfield.
Source: AFP & Reuters