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The day we found our voice

SIRENS, music blaring from cars and people moving in groups and absorbed in animated debates brought Harare to life yesterday.

By Phyllis Mbanje

The numbers kept swelling as citizens poured onto the streets and it was clear as early as 8am that Saturday November 18 would go down in the annals of history as the day Zimbabweans finally found their voice.

It was the day Zimbabweans thronged the streets in unprecedented numbers to deliver an emphatic message to President Robert Mugabe that his time was up.

Similar marches took place in other parts of the country, but the mother of all demonstrations was in Harare.

Some came draped in the Zimbabwean flag, singing liberation war era songs.

More trucks and buses emptied people onto the streets and the revolution was well underway.

Soldiers on the streets became instant heroes as young women jostled to take “selfies” with the heavily-armed men. The crowds cheered the soldiers on.

Although it is not guaranteed that the future will be easy, for this one moment frozen in time, Zimbabweans were exhaling and breathing in the cold air. They were embracing their new lease of life, believing they are free at last from the tyranny of Mugabe’s rule.

Many lifted banners with messages “Mugabe must go”, “Mugabe must fall”, “Thank you ZDF”.

“People used to get arrested for even suggesting that Mugabe must go but now we are openly telling him that he should go,” said an elderly man.

Others hoisted a picture of former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is believed to be the army’s favourite to take over from Mugabe.

Thousands marched down Jason Moyo Avenue towards Joina city. A tanker with the “heroes” of the moment ambled down the road surrounded by hordes of people who openly displayed their gratitude.

The soldiers were relaxed and it was evident that they connected with the crowd.

Commuter omnibuses raced down the streets with young people hanging out with careless abandon. Roads resembled a car rally as the anticipation mood was magnified.

Most shops in the capital were closed for business and allowed their employees to go for the historic march that began at the Freedom Square and ended at State House.

Race, religion, gender all blended into one kaleidoscope of colour, and for once, many were fearless.

There were no police officers in sight but the crowd remained orderly and disciplined.

Tens of thousands of people marched to State house, a no-go area because of its tight security.

Their demand was simple “Mugabe must go”. The mantra was repeated everywhere.

Foreign and local journalists mingled with the crowds, trying to capture as much of the mood as they could. No one seemed afraid to speak on camera and people jostled to say one or two words to express their joy.

“God has finally heard our prayers, we give thanks,” said a vendor lifting her arms towards heaven. She had left her wares by the roadside as she joined the celebrations.

Street children joined in the fun fare too. Bare-footed, they ran along with the rest of the crowd and no one seemed to mind them.

The crowd only dispersed after the army thanked the residents for showing solidarity with them and promised that the nation would be updated on the talks with Mugabe later in the evening.

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