Zimbabweans look forward to post-Mugabe era

But frustration as president fails to resign

Photo of soldier in a tank and citizens smiling

In Harare people chatted with soldiers, brought them snacks and took photos alongside the armoured vehicles

By Harare Photographer

20 November 2017

Many Zimbabweans were left angry and frustrated after President Robert Mugabe failed to announce his resignation during a live television address to the nation on Sunday night.

Speaking on state broadcaster ZBC, Mugabe read out a speech but made no mention of stepping down. Flanked by some of the military leadership who have seized control of the country, Mugabe constantly referred to himself as President and noted the criticisms levelled against him by his party ZANU-PF. He remained defiant and indicated that he would be presiding over the ZANU-PF elective conference which is scheduled for December.

Watching the live address at a bar in the Harare CBD, 24-year-old Blessing Nyakudya said he was disappointed but not entirely surprised. “The old man is stubborn. I think maybe his old age has affected his thinking and intellectual capacities. I guess he has held on to power for so long it’s very difficult for him to let go. It’s disappointing because you saw the amount of people who protested in the streets. People are tired. We want change. We need change,” said Nyakudya.

Christopher Mutsvangwa (centre), chairperson of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association, celebrates as the announcement is made removing Mugabe as the president of the ZANU-PF party.

The day after one of the largest protests the country has ever seen began with Zimbabweans making their way to churches for Sunday service. Priests and congregants held prayers for peace and unity in the country, urging Zimbabweans to remain peaceful during this uncertain time.

In the streets of Harare people gathered around military tanks which were parked outside key locations. Citizens chatted with the soldiers, brought them snacks, and took photos alongside the armoured vehicles.

Around midday journalists flocked to the ZANU-PF headquarters where the party’s central committee was holding a special session. The ruling party’s provincial structures had all voted to remove Mugabe from office. There were cheers and ululating inside the venue. Delegates were dancing and celebrating. “The president is gone! Long live the new president!” said Christopher Mutsvangwa, chairperson of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans’ Association, seen as a key figure in the removal of Mugabe.

Celebrations after a prayer session at African Unity Square in central Harare

ZANU-PF took the decision to axe the leader, his wife Grace Mugabe, and other party members they described as criminals. They had given Mugabe until 12pm on Monday to tender his resignation or else impeachment proceedings would be initiated in Parliament. The party also resolved to reinstate axed vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa who is likely to succeed as president.

“It has been a long time coming. He [Mugabe] was in dereliction of duty. His wife, who is mad, had along with other criminals taken over his presidency and have been abusing executive power,” said Mutsvangwa. When asked whether he felt President Mugabe would resign, Mutsvangwa replied, “It is neither here nor there if he resigns. His power is gone. The emperor has no clothes.”

A mother holds her baby during a prayer service at a church in Harare

Elsewhere in the capital Zimbabweans gathered at African Unity Square where they conducted a mass prayer meeting led by Pastor Evan Mawarire who founded the #ThisFlag movement.

Mawarire was previously arrested and detained on charges of subverting a constitutionally-elected government and inciting public violence. “I have been pushing for the rights of Zimbabweans. When I was arrested last year, I was arrested for speaking out, for doing what my constitution allows me to do. We are tired of the past and we want to build something new going forward,” said Mawarire.

Pastor Evan Mawarire who founded the #ThisFlag movement taking photos with people who gathered for a prayer session at African Unity Square in central Harare.