Zuma turns the knife on Mugabe and back Zimbabwean people

Former Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe (L) gestures as South Africa's President Jacob Zuma looks on

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – South African President Jacob Zuma said on Saturday the African region was committed to supporting “the people of Zimbabwe” after a military takeover and that he was cautiously optimistic that the situation there could be resolved amicably

Zuma made the comments in the South African city of Durban as thousands of Zimbabweans celebrated the expected downfall of President Robert Mugabe in the streets of Harare.

Tens of thousands of Zimbabweans flooded the streets of Harare on Saturday, singing, dancing and hugging soldiers in an extraordinary outpouring of elation at the expected fall of President Robert Mugabe, their leader of the last 37 years.

Mugabe, the only ruler Zimbabwe has known since independence from Britain in 1980, has been holed up in his lavish “Blue Roof” compound, from where he has watched support from his ZANU-PF party, the security services and the people evaporate in the wake of a military seizure of power on Wednesday.

Zimbabwe’s military put Mugabe under house arrest early Wednesday, effectively ending his 37-year rule. (Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters)

On the streets of the capital, Zimbabweans let their emotions run free as they spoke of political and economic change after two decades of repression and deepening hardship.

Some held aloft placards reading “Mugabe must leave Zimbabwe now!” and pumping their fists in the air in a sign of freedom. Others embraced the soldiers who seized power, shouting “Thank you! Thank you!” in scenes unthinkable even a week ago.

A woman reacts as people march alongside an armoured personnel carrier during Saturday’s demonstration. (Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images)

Other demonstrators removed street signs with the name Robert Mugabe and stomped on them.

“People say that for the first time they are not afraid to come out on the streets and demonstrate. They don’t think there will be reprisals because they believe that it is the end of Robert Mugabe in their country,” said CBC’s Margaret Evans, reporting from Harare.