Mugabe to meet army generals after mass protests

Mugabe to meet army generals after mass protests

Harare, Zimbabwe – A day after tens of thousands of Zimbabweans rallied in a sea of mass marches to demand President Robert Mugabe relinquish power, the 93-year-old faces a second round of talks with top army generals to continue negotiations.

Mugabe, the 93-year-old Zanu-PF leader, has been under military quarantine at his residence since Wednesday when the army placed him under house arrest and took over state TV and key government sites.

According to the Sunday Mail, a state-owned weekly paper, talks between Mugabe and the army commanders will be mediated by Catholic Priest, Father Fidelis Mukonori.

Mukonori facilitated the first round of mediation talks on Thursday, attended by two South African envoys representing President Jacob Zuma.

Sunday’s meeting will include two local government mediators, Aaaron Nhepera, the acting director-general of the Central Intelligence Organisation, and George Charamba, the presidential press secretary and secretary for media, information and broadcasting services, the paper says.

As well as the army, opposition and war veterans, some members of Mugabe’s own party have turned against him.

All 10 of ZANU-PF’s provincial structures have passed a motion of no-confidence against Mugabe and called on him to step down as the ruling party’s first secretary. 

Upping a call which echoed across Harare’s protests on Saturday for Mugabe to quit, the Central Committee of the ruling Zanu-PF will also meet on Sunday to discuss the provincial votes.

The regional committees say Mugabe must be recalled as first secretary, and demand that sacked Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa is reinstated as second secretary of the liberation movement.

Zimbabweans marched late into the night on Saturday [Tendai Marima/Al Jazeera]

Mugabe’s decision on November 6 to fire the man touted as his most likely successor spurred an internal power struggle.

First Lady Grace Mugabe was tipped to takeover as second secretary and vice president, prompting a military takeover with the army saying it wanted to “target criminals” around Mugabe who were leading the party and state astray.

In a rare sign of solidarity between the people and the army, which has often been a pillar of support for Mugabe’s near 40-year rule, Zimbabweans on Saturday expressed support and praise for the military’s operation.

Huge crowds swelled on the streets.

Civilians could be seen giving hugs and fist bumps to soliders, and taking selfies with army personnel camped outside parliament, the presidential offices and other strategic sites.

There was a convivial mood in the capital as people played loud music and danced after marching to State House to demand Mugabe’s resignation, in scenes described as “historic” and representing a “day of freedom”.

Zimbabweans have never before gathered in such numbers to march against Mugabe.

‘Breakthrough prayer’

Activist pastor Evan Mawarire has called for a “breakthrough prayer” on Sunday for Zimbabweans to come together and pray for a change to the struggling nation’s fortunes.

Mawarire, who attended Sunday’s march, stressed he does not support the army takeover but described the rally as “a momentous occasion” and an opportunity for a “fresh start” to advance democratic change.

In 2016, Mawarire called for a strike, the first mass protest in almost a decade. He has previously faced charges of undermining the president and trying to overthrow an elected government for calling on Zimbabweans to protest against spiralling economic and political problems. 

Regional dignitaries from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), of which South African President Zuma chairs, are keenly watching the unfolding situation.

The SADC bloc is expected to hold an extraordinary session on Tuesday to discuss the Zimbabwe situation in neighboring Botswana where the SADC is headquarters is located.

While the region’s leaders remain silent on Mugabe’s fate, Botswana’s President Ian Khama has openly called for the world’s oldest president to step down.

Follow Tendai Marima on Twitter @i_amten