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On Saturday, tens of thousands of Zimbabweans took to the streets of Harare to demand an end to the almost four-decade long reign of President Robert Mugabe. Brandishing flags that read “Mugabe Must Rest Now” and “No to Mugabe Dynasty,” the Zimbabwean people united against the 93-year-old leader’s refusal to resign.
The protests occurred in response to Mr. Mugabe’s plans to extend his dynasty through passing down the Presidency to his wife, First Lady Grace Mugabe. This became evident when Mr. Mugabe fired Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former ally with strong military support who was tipped to become the country’s next President.
Mr. Mugabe’s actions were finally held accountable, not by the opposition, the Movement for Democratic Change, but instead by the military and members of his own party.
Last Wednesday, the army placed Mr. Mugabe under house arrest to demand that he resign. They have also detained some of his key political allies. These extreme actions have received little negative response from the public who are in agreeance that Mr. Mugabe’s reign must end.
Mr. Mugabe has yet to directly comment on the calls for his resignation. On Friday, he attempted to convey a ‘business-as-usual’ atmosphere through attending a university graduation ceremony in Harare. However, independent parliamentarian Temba Mliswa has told major media outlets that “If he refuses to leave we will start a motion to pass a vote of no confidence in his presidency when parliament sits again on Tuesday.”
Mr. Mugabe’s resignation has also been encouraged regionally, with Botswana’s President Ian Khama openly calling for him to step down.
Since his house arrest, Mr. Mugabe has met with army chief, General Constantino Chiwenga to discuss the situation. Mr. Chiwenga told the media that he is pushing for Mr. Mugabe to step down and for an interim president to take over until December, where a conference of the party will take place to decide the next leader of the party.
Sources have speculated that former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa will become the next leader of the party and claim the title of President until the country holds elections in 2018.
Senior opposition leaders have told major media sources that Mr. Mnangagwa was instrumental in constructing plans to oust Mr. Mugabe. However, there seems to be little resentment of the actions and opposition leaders have welcomed the changes in leadership.
Protestors have also embraced the potential new President, some carrying posters of Mr. Mnangagwa and shouting “Mnanagagwa, the true father of Zimbabwe, is coming.” Many people on the streets claimed to feel excited by the end of the era and the potential for new liberation of Zimbabwe. Many expressed disdain at the country’s lack of economic growth, increased unemployment and political stagnation.
However, whilst the general atmosphere of the protest was hopeful, some remain sceptical of the military’s actions. One protestor claimed, “What has happened within the army may not be because they love the people of Zimbabwe. Deep down within us, we know they are part of the system.”