Zimbabwe soldiers blocked thousands of protesters as they tried to march on embattled President Robert Mugabe’s official residence in Harare on Saturday, said an AFP correspondent on the scene.
The demonstrators, participating in nationwide protests calling for the 93-year-old veteran leader to step aside after the army took power earlier this week, staged a sit-down protest in the road after being halted by the troops.
Euphoric crowds of several thousand people gathered in Zimbabwe’s capital on Saturday to demand the departure of Mugabe, one of Africa’s last remaining liberation leaders, after nearly four decades in power.
Zimbabweans giddy with joy raced through intersections, raising their arms in triumph. Young men shouted, laughed and embraced. Others danced on top of moving buses.
“It’s like Christmas,” said one marcher, Fred Mubay, who said Zimbabweans have been suffering for a long time.
The 93-year-old Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state, is said to be asking for more time amid negotiations with regional leaders that seek his exit with a veneer of dignity.
But he is virtually powerless and deserted by most of his allies, with others arrested, and the ruling party has turned on him, asking for a Central Committee meeting this weekend to recall both him and his wife. Impeachment is also a possibility when Parliament resumes Tuesday.
The dancing crowds in Harare were making it clear the country is impatient to move on without Mugabe, who took power 37 years ago amid an air of optimism but has been accused of squandering the once-prosperous country’s potential.