Crowds gather in Harare to march against beleaguered Robert Mugabe

Crowds gather in Harare to march against beleaguered Robert Mugabe

Opponents of Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe are preparing to demonstrate for the ousting of the 93-year-old leader who is virtually powerless and deserted by most of his allies.

Zimbabwe's generals have placed Mr Mugabe under house arrest and have allowed him limited movement while talks on his exit from office unfold.

But many Zimbabweans are growing impatient and want him to leave immediately.

Protesters hope a big turnout on Saturday will speed up the official end of Mr Mugabe's rule, which is widely blamed for the collapse of an economy that was once one of Africa's wealthiest.

Euphoric crowds are gathering on some main streets in central Harare and motorists are honking their horns and people are whistling and cheering even as many go about their daily business.

In a gathering that even days ago would have drawn an immediate police crackdown, Zimbabweans giddy with joy raced through the streets, raising their arms in triumph.

Some had posters with an image of the military commander who swept in earlier this week and put Mr Mugabe under house arrest, with the slogan: "Go, go, our general!!!"

Marchers handed flags to soldiers, who accepted and waved.

"It's like Christmas," said one marcher, Fred Mubay, who said Zimbabweans have been suffering for a long time.

Mr Mugabe, the world's oldest head of state, is said to be asking for more time amid negotiations that seek his exit with a veneer of dignity.

But the crowds in Harare on Saturday were making it clear the country was ready to move on without him.

Concerns remain about who next would be in charge and what freedoms might be available if the military lingered in power - or if Mr Mugabe's longtime but recently fired deputy led a new government.

However people revelled in the rare chance to speak out, in an event approved by the military.

Veterans of the long liberation war against white minority rule, once close allies of Mr Mugabe, took part, along with opposition activists who have faced police crackdowns by the Mugabe government.

One driver was so jubilant that he got out of his moving car and danced in front of it for a couple of minutes as the empty vehicle coasted slowly down a street lined with cheering crowds.

Some white Zimbabweans joined the crowd at Harare's Freedom Square, also known as Robert Mugabe Square. Some whites and blacks hugged each other.


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