The South African president says the African region will be committed to supporting the people of Zimbabwe amid an army takeover of the government in the country.
Jacob Zuma said on Saturday that he was cautiously optimistic that the situation in South Africa’s neighbor could be resolved amicably.
He said, however, that Africa would remain committed to supporting “the people of Zimbabwe” after President Robert Mugabe was ostensibly purged from office by the army. The remarks came as thousands of Zimbabweans took to the streets of the capital Harare to celebrate the expected downfall of Mugabe, although the aging leader, who has been under house arrest since Tuesday, is believed to be struggling to return to office.
The army’s intervention came after Mugabe fired his long-time deputy, prompting fears that he would finally position his unpopular wife, Grace, to succeed him. He appeared at a graduation ceremony on Friday and was still called president. However, many say negotiations are underway to urge him to cede power and reports say he has asked for more time.
Zimbabwe’s state TV covered the Saturday march against Mugabe, which some sources said attracted a bulk of Harare’s 1.6 million people. Many chanted slogans against the 93-year-old, who is the world’s oldest head of state and has served in the post for nearly four decades.
“This is the biggest day in the history of Zimbabwe,” said a demonstrator as others danced on the roofs of the cars and handed flags to soldiers, who accepted and waved.
War veterans leader Christopher Mutsvangwa attended the rally and called on the crowd to march on Mugabe’s “blue roof” residence.
However, a nephew of Mugabe said that he had no intention of stepping down. Patrick Zhuwao said Mugabe and his wife were “ready to die for what is correct” and would never to this week’s military coup.
Many say South Africa’s Saturday declaration of support for Zimbabweans could play a major role Mugabe’s exit from power. South Africa is a key regional power with huge economic influence on other countries of Africa while it has its own history of frictions with Mugabe.