Netizen 24 NZL: Tens of thousands take to the streets to call for Robert Mugabe's resignation as 'day of rage' turns into celebration

Posted by On 5:36 AM

Tens of thousands take to the streets to call for Robert Mugabe's resignation as 'day of rage' turns into celebration

There had been calls for a "Day of Rage", but the overwhelming mood of the tens of thousands who poured into the streets of Harare today was one of celebration at what they are convinced is deliverance at last from the rule of Robert Mugabe.

The course of Zimbabwe’s slow motion coup has been difficult to chart with Africa’s longest serving head of state seemingly determined to cling on to power despite the military taking over and branches of his own ruling party passing motions of no confidence. But the vast turnout in the capital was a resounding popular vote marking what looks like a point of no return for the 93-year-old president.

Women and men, the young and elderly, sang danced and chanted slogans. They carried placards saying “ Mugabe just go”, “Mugabe leave Zimbabwe now”, “People v Rober t Mugabe”, “Red card for Mugabe”, and at a place where they avidly follow English premiership football: “Mugabe worse than Moyes”, evidently from a West Ham fan disgruntled by the new manager the club has appointed.

Another held a sign demanding Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, leave his job.

“It’s like Independence Day and Christmas in one”, was among the phrases heard. Laughing as she savoured the words, 27 year old Joyce Mangezi added: “I think to myself that this man has been president for 10 years longer than I have been alive. And all that time our country has suffered. I haven’t got a job, my brother and sister hasn’t got jobs, most of my friends haven’t got jobs. But this man wants to stay in his job until he dies.”

zimbabwe-sign.jpgProtesters at a demonstration against Robert Mugabe, hold a sign calling for Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger's removal (The Independent)

The police were noticeable by their absence. People remembered how they had cracked heads in previous demonstrations and are viewed as siding with Mr Mugabe even after the military takeover earlier this week. The original plan had been for demonstrators to gather at the city’s Freedom Square, but soldiers asked them to go on to the far bigger Zimbabwe Grounds stadium at the outskirts of the city.

It was a far bigger venue, but also symbolic. This was the place where another huge crowd had gathered 37 years ago to welcome Mr Mugabe on his return from exile following the end of white minority rule.

Mugabe's first public appearance since Zimbabwe military takeover

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Mugabe's first public appearance since Zimbabwe military takeover

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    President Robert Mugabe, center, arrives to preside over a student graduation ceremony at Zimbabwe Open University

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    Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe arrives at student graduation ceremony

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    President Robert Mugabe prepares to speak at a student graduation

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    Members of the Presidential Guard

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    President Robert Mugabe arrives at his first public appearance at a graduation ceremony in Harare

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    President Robert Mugabe confers awards for the students with the leading theses

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    Robert Mugabe makes his first public appearance

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    Soldiers stand guard as President Robert Mugabe attends a university graduation ceremony

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    President Robert Mugabe

The anthems of that war of liberation were being belted out on the streets, reminders of the sacrifices made to gain independence, and the disillusionment which had followed as what should have become one of the continent’s most affluent lands turned into an economic basket case under the rule of Mr Mugabe and his cohort

The protest marches had been called by veterans of the war. C hristopher Mutsvangwa, the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association, declared they were needed to ensure Mr Mugabe’s removal. “We want to restore our pride and this is the day, we can finish the job the army started. There is no going back for Mugabe. He must leave, of he doesn’t leave, we will settle scores.”

Some former fighters, however, still remember the young Mugabe, the firebrand in the struggle against racist rule , and wanted to temper talk of vengeance. Wilson Tshabangu stressed “ We don’t want him to end like Gaddafi. We don’t even think that he should face trial. He should go, and take his wife with him. Mugabe did serve his country once, we should remember that.”

Zimbabwe's 'military takeover' explained

Grace Mugabe, with epithets of "Gucci Grace" and "DisGrace" given to her by her many critics for, among other things, lavish sp ending on luxuries while hardship spread in the country, is believed to be at "Blue Roof", a presidential mansion under house arrest.

Chris Mutsvangwa has described Mr Mugabe as “senile old man who has lost control of his wife”. An immunity of prosecution for Grace Mugabe is another one of the president’s demands in negotiations with the military about his departure. Mr Tshabangu’s companion Kenneth Mzizi, a member of ruling Zanu-PF held that should be given. “I can’t see him leaving without her and so she should be allowed to go. He will go, because our party has said it no longer wants him. But neither should be allowed to come back to Zimbabwe. “

One of the more surreal episodes of the last few days of drama had been the sight of Mr Mugabe, supposedly under house arrest, attending a a university graduation ceremony just as he had done in years. The president, in blue and gold gown and mortar board, taking his place over a red carpet whi le surprised looking students clapped and a band played.

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One of the students on whom the president conferred a degree was Marry Chiwenga, the wife of General Constantino Chiwenga, who detained Mr Mugabe earlier this week as tanks began rolling through the streets.

“It was all very strange. What is going on?” asked 22-year-old Hazel Zengeya. “It is absurd he was allowed to go to an university, students like me had no hope of a good future because of what his government has done. This must be the end of all that.”

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