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Zimbabwe protesters begin marching towards Mugabe residence

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Mug-GoZimbabweans celebrating the expected fall of President Robert Mugabe marched towards his residence in the capital Harare on Saturday, live television pictures showed, as the country prepared to oust its leader of the last 37 years.

 

Hundreds 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.

 

In scenes reminiscent of the downfall of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989, men, women and children ran alongside the armored 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.

 

Mugabe’s nephew, Patrick Zhuwao, told Reuters on Saturday that the elderly leader and his wife were “ready to die for what is correct” and had no intention of stepping down in order to legitimise what he described as a coup.

 

Speaking 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”.

 

On Harare’s streets, emotions ran high 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 shockwaves 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.

 

The crowds in Harare have so far given a quasi-democratic veneer to the army’s intervention, backing its claims that it is merely effecting a constitutional transfer of power, which would help it avoid the diplomatic backlash and opprobrium that normally follows coups.

 

Zimbabweans abroad were also awaiting the end of Mugabe’s rule. Hundreds living in Britain gathered outside the country’s embassy in central London calling on the leader to step aside.

 

“I am happy today because Bob Mugabe is about to go. He must go. At least if he goes, we’ll have a change of president after so many years of injustice,” said Florence, a 34-year-old who declined to give her last name.

 

NO DIS-GRACE

 

For some Africans, Mugabe remains a nationalist hero, the continent’s last independence leader and a symbol of its struggle to throw off the legacy of decades of colonial subjugation.



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