Thousands of demonstrators in zimbabwe demand mugabe’s resignation

Thousands of demonstrators in zimbabwe demand mugabe's resignation

Rarely has a military coup triggered so much jubilation and joy: tens of thousands of zimbabweans turned a protest march against president robert mugabe (93) into a people’s festival.

Posters reading "enough is enough: mugabe must go" could be seen all over the streets of the capital harare – where just a week ago people had never dared to protest so openly against mugabe, who has been in power since 1980, for fear of arrest. Protests have also been held in bulawayo and other cities around the country, as well as outside zimbabwean consulates abroad, such as in johannesburg, sudafrica.

"We are here because we celebrate. We just want mugabe to step down now," said one unemployed demonstrator. "We thank the generals," added the 35-year-old, who has never met a president other than mugabe in his life.

"We want a new zimbabwe," said a 50-year-old female demonstrator. Like countless others, she had wrapped herself in zimbabwe’s colorful national flag for the protest march. "We want all zimbabweans to come together now and put the country back on track," she said. Demonstrators tore down several street signs at the street named after the president in harare.

The military had taken power on wednesday night without bloodshed. Mugabe was placed under house arrest. Military leadership now urging him to resign. Since the coup, almost all the pillars of mugabe’s power system have collapsed in the blink of an eye.

In a spectacular about-face on friday, the previous ruling party, zanu-PF, called for mugabe’s resignation. The putschists are said to want to make way for a transitional government after mugabe’s departure, probably led by recently ousted former vice president emmerson mnangagwa.

"Bye, bye mugabe" was the slogan on one poster, others read "mugabe: time for retirement" or "stop corruption. Women, blacks, olds, youngs, academics, unemployed and fruit sellers – the streets of the capital harare had seldom seen a demonstration so representative of all social classes and political leanings.

Parts of the ruling party as well as the opposition and civil society groups had called for the demonstration. The military had expressly authorized the demonstration.

The soldiers, who until recently were feared by most zimbabweans, sat on their armored vehicles at the edge of the demonstration. Some waved to the protesters, others stood by for selfies. Many celebrated zimbabwe’s militar (ZDF) as the country’s new liberators. One demonstrator held a banner reading "thank you ZDF", others displayed a photo of chief of staff constantino chiwenga with the words "hope of zimbabweans".

Sellers of anti-mugabe t-shirts made good business on the fringes of the demonstration; state television, now controlled by the military, showed images of the protests on the news. Both would have been completely unthinkable in zimbabwe only a short time ago.

Many demonstrators also held up placards in support of mnangagwa, known by his nickname, the crocodile. He seems to be the militar’s favorite. Like mugabe, the 75-year-old has been part of the country’s political elite for decades.

Some observers therefore fear that the hopes of many demonstrators for a complete reboot in zimbabwe are unlikely to be fulfilled. Mugabe’s failed economic policies have turned the former breadbasket of southern africa into a poorhouse. According to treasures, about 80 percent of the people are unemployed.

There were initially no official estimates of the number of protesters, but photos and videos showed hundreds, sometimes thousands, of people in various parts of harare. Three reporters from the german press agency estimate the number of demonstrators at tens of thousands of people.

According to experts, the military coup was triggered by mugabe’s dismissal of mnangagwa last week and the head of state’s efforts to install his unpopular wife grace as his successor. Grace mugabe (52) is known for her impulsive behavior, expensive clothes and extravagant shopping trips; she is therefore usually referred to as "gucci grace".