United against tyrant

Fear is gone as Zimbabweans turn on ‘thief’ Robert Mugabe

Christina Lamb watches people unite against the tyrant who enslaved them

The Sunday Times by Christina Lamb, Harare

November 19 2017

People cheer a Zimbabwe Defense Force military vehicle during a demonstration demanding the resignation of Robert Mugabe – Photo Jekesai Njikizana/AFP

[When you’ve read the article, click on the link at the end to watch this remarkable video]

It felt like a revolution. They came from all over the country and all walks of life. Young and old, opposition activists and party apparatchiks, white farmers and black war veterans, housewives and their maids.

For years many of them had been on opposing sides, but yesterday they had one common objective. “Mugabe must go!” read the banners as thousands of Zimbabweans filled the streets of Harare draped in their red, yellow, green and black flag, playing music, dancing and hugging strangers.

The slow-motion coup that began when the army arrested President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday was not yet over, but everyone knew that his own party was preparing to remove him.


A road sign is consigned to the bin in Harare yesterday

A majority of his Zanu-PF party has voted no-confidence motions against him and impeachment is set for this week if he does not step down.

“Welcome to the happiest day in our lives,” said Kerry Kay, whose corn and tobacco farm in Marondera was one of the first to be seized by Mugabe. Her husband Iain was badly beaten by his thugs; the pictures shocked the world.

“I never imagined I’d be marching with war vets and military. They were the people involved in all our trauma and harassment,” Kay laughed.

“But if this is what it takes, so be it. I’m 67 and my kids say I’m acting like 17.”

Nearby a security guard and his friend pulled down a sign for Robert Mugabe Road and began stamping on it. “He must go, he is cruel, he is a thief,” they shouted, then pretended to defecate on it.

In 20 years of reporting on Zimbabwe I have never seen anything like it.

This country has infuriated me like no other. The people are incredibly friendly but I have watched them vote for a ruling party that made their lives a nightmare — for fear of being beaten or their daughters being raped.

I have watched elections repeatedly rigged and the opposition leader flee abroad rather than take angry supporters onto the streets.

I have seen police bulldoze people’s homes and shops and tear down everything they worked for, yet not a single person protested.

I have watched people turn to stone when the presidential convoy approached — for fear of breaking a law that banned any gesture as it roared past.

This is a country where it is a criminal offence to criticise the president. Earlier this month an American journalist was arrested after a tweet in which she called Mugabe a “goblin whose wife and stepson bought a Rolls-Royce”.

Suddenly the fear was gone.

Twelve miles away, Mugabe and his wife Grace remained holed up in their £7.5m 25-roomed mansion known as Blue Roof.

Deserted even by his staunchest allies — the army and veterans of the liberation war who had helped to rig successive elections — Mugabe was still refusing to go.

One scene, however, should have convinced him that he had no hope of remaining in power.

Just before midday, soldiers with guns — including members of the presidential guard in yellow berets — ordered protesters to sit down in the street.

For a few minutes people wondered if something terrible was going to happen. Then a tank arrived bearing soldiers who were mobbed and cheered.

Military chiefs, former bastions of the regime, encouraged this cathartic outpouring of people’s true feelings to convince the president to resign. The clear message is that if he still refuses to go then the army will be on the side of the people.

ZBC, the state broadcaster, reported last night that Mugabe will meet the military command today.

“We must understand the endgame and the endgame is the president must go,” said Temba Mliswa, the former chairman of Zanu-PF in Mashonaland West.

“Eight of 10 provinces have recommended he be expelled and tomorrow’s central committee meeting is key to expel him, Grace and the rest of the cabal.”

As well as losing his job, Mugabe was also in danger of losing his legacy.

“He talks about the liberation war, but he never even came within 400km of the front line,” said Chris Mutsvangwa, chairman of the war veterans’ association.

“He is not a hero but a senile old man with a mad wife he cannot control.”

“This is a historic day,” said Tarra Emily White, 22, a pre-school teacher arm-in-arm with two friends, their faces painted in the colours of the Zimbabwean flag.

“For the first time we have a chance of an actual future.”

“It’s been too long,” said her friend Antoinette, 27, a receptionist.

“There are no jobs, nothing. We want a normal country we can be proud of.”