Tens of thousands of Zimbabweans
flooded the streets of Harare on Saturday, singing, dancing and hugging soldiers in an outpouring of elation at the expected fall of President Robert Mugabe, their leader of the last 37 years.
In scenes reminiscent of the downfall of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989, men, women and children ran alongside the armoured 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.
Emotions ran over on Harare’s streets 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.
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.
“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.”
Some held aloft placards reading “No to Mugabe dynasty” and pumped their fists in the air in a sign of freedom, an echo of the gesture made by South Africa’s Nelson Mandela when he walked out of an apartheid jail in 1990.
Others embraced the soldiers who seized power, shouting “Thank you! Thank you!” in scenes unthinkable even a week ago.
In one telling metaphor, a metal street sign bearing the inscription R. Mugabe Rd had been torn down, crumpled up and thrown in a litter bin.