Africa

Zimbabwe crowds rejoice as they demand end to Mugabe rule

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Media captionThe BBC's Anne Soy spoke to jubilant protesters in Harare.

Thousands of people have celebrated the army takeover in Zimbabwe and urged President Robert Mugabe to step down.

They tore pictures of Mr Mugabe and marched to his office and residence.

The army intervened on Wednesday, days after Mr Mugabe sacked his deputy, signalling that he favoured his wife Grace as his successor.

Mr Mugabe, who is confined to his house, was to meet army chiefs on Sunday, state TV said. The 93-year-old has led Zimbabwe for 37 years.

The military says it will advise the public on the outcome of talks "as soon as possible".

Saturday's rally had the support of the army and members of the governing Zanu-PF party.

Veterans of Zimbabwe's war for independence - who until last year were loyal to the president, the best-known among them - are also saying Mr Mugabe should quit.

Outside State House, the official residence, some people staged a sit-down protest in front of a line of troops, and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai addressed the crowd, to cheers.

The BBC's Andrew Harding in Harare says this is a watershed moment and there can be no return to power for Mr Mugabe.

Our correspondent says the situation may appear to be getting out of Zanu-PF's control and there could be a broad push to introduce a transitional government that includes the opposition.

Image caption The army kept people away from State House

On Friday, Mr Mugabe made his first public appearance since being confined to his house.

He spoke only to open the graduation at a university of which he is chancellor.

Grace Mugabe was not present. It had been thought she had left the country but it emerged on Thursday that she was at home with Mr Mugabe.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The message for the Mugabes was clear

Mr Mugabe sacked Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week, apparently to pave the way for Grace Mugabe, who is four decades younger than him, to take over the presidency.

Zanu-PF's top body is meeting on Sunday to discuss dismissing Mr Mugabe as party leader.


Negotiating Mugabe's exit

Analysis by Anne Soy, BBC News, Harare

Negotiations are going on behind the scenes to persuade President Mugabe to step down. It is understood that he has insisted that he cannot do so and legitimise a coup.

The military maintains this is not a coup and there is international pressure to use constitutional means to resolve the political crisis. Negotiators are poring through Zimbabwe's laws to find a legal way out.

Saturday's call for civilians to take to the streets looks choreographed to lend some legitimacy to the transition process being discussed.

President Mugabe's support base has continued to crumble. Independence war veterans, who fought alongside him against colonial rule, have also called on their former leader to leave.

But the biggest blow yet to Mr Mugabe could be delivered by the central committee of his ruling Zanu-PF on Sunday. Their meeting could see Robert Mugabe dismissed as party leader.

Read more from Anne

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Image caption The protest had the blessing of the military and the ruling party

Who is backing the protest in Harare?

  • The influential war veterans' association. Leader Christopher Mutsvangwa had called for a huge turnout, saying: "We want to restore our pride."
  • The ruling Zanu-PF. At least eight out of 10 regional branches voted on Friday for Mr Mugabe to resign as president and party secretary. Several regional leaders appeared on TV saying he should step down, Grace Mugabe should resign from the party and Mr Mnangagwa should be reinstated to the central committee.
  • The Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) said the rally was a "solidarity march". It said: "As long as the planned march remains orderly, peaceful... and without hate speech and incitement to cause violence, it fully supports the march."
  • Liberal groups opposed to the president. The leader of last year's #Thisflag protests, Evans Mwarire, urged people to turn up.

How did we get here?

Soldiers seized the headquarters of Zimbabwe's national broadcaster ZBC on Wednesday, and loud explosions and gunfire were heard.

Maj Gen Sibusiso Moyo then read out a statement on national television, assuring the nation that President Mugabe and his family were safe.

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Media captionWhy is Zimbabwe in such a bad way?

The military was only targeting what he called "criminals" around the president, he said, denying that there had been a coup.

On Thursday, Mr Mugabe was pictured smiling as he took part in talks with an army general and South African government ministers at State House but sources suggested he might be resisting pressure to resign.


What has been the reaction around the world?

  • US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urged a quick return to civilian rule, but also said the crisis was an opportunity for Zimbabwe to set itself on a new path
  • Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said Beijing was hoping for stability and a peaceful "appropriate" resolution
  • UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson warned against a transition from "one unelected tyrant" to another
  • Botswana's President Ian Khama said regional leaders did not support Mr Mugabe staying in power
  • Alpha Conde, the chairman of the African Union, a key regional bloc, said the takeover "seems like a coup" and demanded a return to constitutional order
  • South Africa's President Jacob Zuma said the region was committed to supporting the people of Zimbabwe, and was optimistic the situation could be resolved amicably

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