Jubilantion on the streets of Zimbabwe’s capital as protesters celebrate the expected fall of President Robert Mugabe, their leader of the last 37 years.
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.
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.
Importantly for the army, the massive crowds in Harare give a quasi-democratic veneer to its 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.
South African President Jacob Zuma said the African region was committed to supporting “the people of Zimbabwe” after a military takeover and that he was cautiously optimistic that the situation there could be resolved amicably.