Thousands of Zimbabweans on Thursday, filled the streets of the capital city Harare, in the largest protest in nearly a decade against their authoritarian 92-year-old President Robert Mugabe.
Supporters of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T) carried anti-Mugabe placards and sang party songs calling for the “dignified exit” of the president, who’s been in power since 1980. They say he is too old and that he is mismanaging the country. They also say they want corruption dealt with, and they want jobs.
The anti-government protestors did not face police or military repression, as protests in Zimbabwe have often been known to be brutally broken up by police during the long rule of Mugabe. Though reports said that police had initially threatened to ban Thursday’s protest but were eventually ordered by the High Court to allow it go ahead.
Among the protesters were some very old people, handicapped people and women with babies strapped to their backs, a sign that Zimbabweans were expecting a peaceful protest.
MDC Party leader Morgan Tsvangirai, addressed supporters gathered at the Africa Unity Square wearing T-shirts in the party’s red colours, after they had chanted party songs.
Tsvangirai gave a speech against the presidency saying Mugabe has no solution to the crisis, and they were there to tell Mugabe and his regime that it had failed. He said Zimbabweans were not demanding an overthrow of the government, but a dignified exit for the tired Mugabe.
This protest is proof that Morgan Tsvangirai, President Mugabe’s long-time rival, who had been dormant since losing the 2013 election, remains a force to reckon with.
Elections are due in 2018 and President Mugabe, 92, says he will run again. Opposition to that is now building both within his party and outside, as the MDC has vowed to hold more protests around the country.
President Mugabe has been in power since the country’s independence in 1980. He remains active but his increasingly fragile health has sparked intense speculation over his successor and the direction the country will then take when his rule comes to an end.
Zimbabwe’s economic crisis has worsened in recent months, taking a toll on employment rates and government expenditure. The country has suffered years of economic collapse and mass emigration during an era marked by intolerance of dissent, vote rigging and accusations of human rights abuses.