Mugabe cornered as citizens demand change
In a euphoric gathering that just days ago would have drawn a police crackdown, crowds marched through Zimbabwe's capital yesterday to demand the departure of President Robert Mugabe, one of Africa's last remaining liberation leaders, after nearly four decades in power.
Zimbabweans giddy with joy raced through intersections, raising their arms in triumph. Young men shouted, laughed and embraced. Others danced on top of moving buses. One man stripped to his underwear and danced on a car roof.
In the first public outpouring since the military put Mugabe under house arrest earlier in the week, the bulk of Harare's population of about 1.6 million appeared to be in the streets. The army held back thousands who gathered near the State House, home to official functions, while others headed towards Mugabe's lavish mansion.
Some marchers had posters with an image of the military commander who swept in to take control, with the slogan: "Go, go, our general!!!" Marchers handed flags to soldiers, who accepted and waved.
'IT'S LIKE CHRISTMAS!'
"It's like Christmas," said one marcher, Fred Mubay, who said Zimbabweans have been suffering for a long time.
Another resident, Trust Chuma, sat quietly on a bench and watched. "This is the biggest day in the history of Zimbabwe," he said.
The 93-year-old Mugabe, the world's oldest head of state, is said to be asking for more time amid negotiations with regional leaders that seek his exit with a veneer of dignity.
But he is virtually powerless and deserted by most of his allies, with others arrested, and the ruling party has turned on him, asking for a Central Committee meeting to recall both him and his wife.
Impeachment is also a possibility when Parliament resumes Tuesday.
The dancing crowds in Harare made it clear the country is impatient to move on without Mugabe, who took power 37 years ago amid an air of optimism but has been accused of squandering the once-prosperous country's potential.