Zimbabwe latest: Crowds outside Mugabe office to force him out

Media playback is unsupported on your device

Protesters in Zimbabwe have headed towards the office of President Robert Mugabe to urge him to step down.

The march came on a day of widespread jubilation in the capital Harare and other cities following the army’s takeover on Wednesday.

Soldiers at State House gently pushed protesters away in scenes resembling a party, says the BBC’s Andrew Harding.

The army intervened after Mr Mugabe sacked his deputy, signalling that he favoured his wife Grace as a successor.

Mr Mugabe, 93, has led Zimbabwe since it gained independence from Britain in 1980.

The military has kept him confined to his residence and says it is “engaging” with him and will advise the public on the outcome of talks “as soon as possible”.

Saturday’s rally is supported by the army and members of the ruling Zanu-PF party.

Veterans of Zimbabwe’s war for independence – who until last year were loyal to the president, the best-known among them – are also saying Mr Mugabe should quit.

The leader of the organisation urged people to head towards Mr Mugabe’s private residence, too.

Outside State House some people staged a sit-down protest in front of a line of troops, and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai addressed the crowd, to cheers.

The BBC’s Andrew Harding in Harare says this is a watershed moment and there can be no return to power for Mr Mugabe.

Our correspondent says the situation may appear to be getting out of Zanu-PF’s control and there could be a broad push to introduce a transitional government that includes the opposition.

Mr Mugabe, 93, had been under house arrest since the army takeover, but on Friday he made his first public appearance. He spoke only to open the graduation at a university of which he is chancellor.

Grace Mugabe was not present. It had been thought she had left the country but it emerged on Thursday that she was at home with Mr Mugabe.

The military made its move after a power struggle over the successor for Mr Mugabe.

He sacked Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week, apparently to pave the way for Grace Mugabe, who is four decades younger than him, to take over the presidency.

Mr Mugabe’s nephew, Patrick Zhuwao, told Reuters news agency the couple were “ready to die for what is correct” and would not step down.


Fear has lifted

Analysis by the BBC’s Andrew Harding in Harare

Euphoric crowds are surging through the centre of Harare, chanting “He must go!” and waving placards demanding President Mugabe’s immediate resignation. People are sitting on their cars, horns blaring, and on top of buses, holding Zimbabwean flags.

“This is a revolution,” said one man emerging from a supermarket to join the protesters. “It has been a long time coming.”

For years such scenes have been unthinkable in Zimbabwe, but the army and governing Zanu-PF gave these rallies their blessing, and the fear that held back so many people appears to have lifted overnight.

“We just want change,” said a woman in a long queue outside a bank in the centre of Harare. Others spoke of the country’s deep economic problems and its soaring unemployment, and hoped that a change of leadership might improve people’s lives.

The governing party – now ruthlessly purging itself – will be hoping to retain its iron grip on power in Zimbabwe, but the extraordinary street protests may have unlocked forces that will be hard to control.

Who is backing the protest in Harare?

  • The influential war veterans’ association. Leader Christopher Mutsvangwa had called for a huge turnout, saying: “We want to restore our pride.”
  • The ruling Zanu-PF. At least eight out of 10 regional branches voted on Friday for Mr Mugabe to resign as president and party secretary. Several regional leaders appeared on TV saying he should step down, Grace Mugabe should resign from the party and Mr Mnangagwa should be reinstated to the central committee.
  • The Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) said the rally was a “solidarity march”. It said: “As long as the planned march remains orderly, peaceful… and without hate speech and incitement to cause violence, it fully supports the march.”
  • Liberal groups opposed to the president. The leader of last year’s #Thisflag protests, Evans Mwarire, urged people to turn up.

How did we get here?

Soldiers seized the headquarters of Zimbabwe’s national broadcaster ZBC on Wednesday, and loud explosions and gunfire were heard.

Maj Gen Sibusiso Moyo then read out a statement on national television, assuring the nation that President Mugabe and his family were safe.

Media playback is unsupported on your device

The military was only targeting what he called “criminals” around the president, he said, denying that there had been a coup.

On Thursday, Mr Mugabe was pictured smiling as he took part in talks with an army general and South African government ministers at State House but sources suggested he might be resisting pressure to resign.


What has been the reaction around the world?

  • US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged a quick return to civilian rule, but also said the crisis was an opportunity for Zimbabwe to set itself on a new path
  • Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing was hoping for stability and a peaceful “appropriate” resolution
  • UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson warned against a transition from “one unelected tyrant” to another
  • Botswana’s President Ian Khama said regional leaders did not support Mr Mugabe staying in power
  • Alpha Conde, the chairman of the African Union, a key regional bloc, said the takeover “seems like a coup” and demanded a return to constitutional order
  • South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma said the region was committed to supporting the people of Zimbabwe, and was optimistic the situation could be resolved amicably

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

BBC News – Home