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Tens of thousands have taken to the streets of Harare to demand Robert Mugabe resign as Zimbabwe’s president, pushing for an end to nearly four decades of rule, following this week’s military takeover in the southern African nation.
Jubilant protesters cheered for a “new Zimbabwe” and sang “Mugabe must go” as they joined a peaceful march on the state house, where generals are said to have been pressing the 93-year-old leader to leave power in recent says.
Soldiers who led this week’s intervention, which resulted in Mr Mugabe’s detention at his house and the arrests of many in his inner circle, guarded intersections and posed for pictures as protesters danced and beeped car-horns across the city.
Many protesters who were not born when Mr Mugabe took power in 1980 said that they felt excitement at the end of an era. “I’m feeling so good, it’s a day to liberate our country,” one said.
On Robert Mugabe Road in the city centre, demonstrators tore down the street signs and trampled them underfoot.
“The feeling cannot be explained, these things were forbidden in the past,” said Elton Kambarami, a protester. “I’m thirty and I’ve never seen a free Zimbabwe.”
Some protesters wore graduation gowns and mortarboards, saying that they had been jobless or street vendors for years under Mr Mugabe, despite their university degrees.
At a rally organised by war veterans on the Harare’s outskirts, opposition leaders called on Zimbabweans to work together to remove Mr Mugabe.
“This is our best day — this is our independence day,” a war veteran said. The president “must go today, not tomorrow — he must go with one hour’s notice.”
On Friday the army said that it fully supported the march so long as it remained orderly, peaceful and in tandem with the constitution. Talks between Mr Mugabe and the military apparently reached a stalemate this week, but on Friday provincial committees of the ruling Zanu-PF called for his resignation.
All 10 of the provincial groups said that Mr Mugabe had lost the capacity to run the country because of his age, according to the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation.