On Harare’s streets, many expressed amazement and delight Wednesday that President Robert Mugabe’s long reign may be coming to a close, but people also admitted the future looked unstable.
Mugabe, 93, has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980 — longer than many can remember — and the sudden move against him by the military left some hoping that his repressive regime would soon fall.
“We are happy with what has been done,” Keresenzia Moyo, 65, a housewife said after visiting a hospital in the capital.
“We needed change. Our situation has been pathetic. The economy has been in the doldrums for a very long time.
“What is good is that this has happened at the top and it is not affecting us people on the ground. People could be killing each other.”
Moyo said that she was not against Mugabe being allowed safe passage out of the country — despite his tenure being marked by brutal repression of dissent, corruption and election vote-rigging.
Mugabe, who is under house arrest after the military took control, led Zimbabwe to independence.
But his decades in power have turned a country once known as the breadbasket of Africa for its bountiful produce, into an economic basket case where many go hungry.
“What we want is for our children to be able to get jobs and live a normal happy life,” Moyo said.
“We want to have food on the table, not one side having everything and others dying of hunger. Mugabe was once a good person but he lost it. Now we need a fresh start.”
– ‘We need some kind of direction’ –
Zimbabwe’s military has denied staging a coup, saying Mugabe was still president.
“We don’t know what this all means and we don’t know what to do,” student Karen Mvelani, 21, told AFP.
“We need some kind of direction on where we are heading.”
The visible impact of the momentous political upheaval was limited in Harare, with many people shopping at street markets, catching mini-buses to work or lining up outside banks as normal.
The country’s economic crisis has caused a severe cash shortage and sharply rising prices, for which many Zimbabweans blame Mugabe.
“He was a liability to the country because he was focusing on his leadership, he was a dictator,” said Tafadzwa Masango, a 35-year-old unemployed man.
“Our economic situation has deteriorated every day — no employment, no jobs,” he said. “We hope for a better Zimbabwe after the Mugabe era.
“We feel very happy. It is now his time to go.”
Mugabe sacked vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa last week, seemingly provoking the intervention of the military, which reportedly opposed First Lady Grace Mugabe’s emergence as the likely next president.
Precious Shumba, director of Harare Residents Trust action group, said Zimbabwe was entering “a new phase”.
“Now at least we break with the past,” she said. “My wish is that they immediately announce a transitional government and state clearly when the country will have the next elections.
“We need a transitional government to rid the country of the toxic politics of patronage, corruption and nepotism.”