Zimbabweans Rally and Urge Mugabe to Step Down
Thousands of exuberant demonstrators are walking through Harare's streets Saturday demanding that President Robert Mugabe step down from office. Signs they are carrying say "Mugabe must go!" and "Not coup but cool."
The military that has stopped such demonstrations in the capital in the past is now supporting the protests, directing demonstrators to the Zimbabwe Grounds where speeches will be made by a number of activists, politicians, and former freedom fighters calling for the president to resign.
The Zimbabwe Grounds is a symbolic location. It is where Zimbabweans welcomed Mugabe back from exile in 1980 after the liberation war from white minority rule.
Demonstrations are being held in other cities around the country also calling for an end to Mugabe's rule.
Mugabe, 93, is reported to be resisting demands from the army, members of his own ZANU-PF party, and political activists to step down after 37 years in power.
The Zimbabwe Defense Forces seized key state institutions Wednesday, confined Mugabe to house arrest and clamped down on those they termed thieves surrounding the president, including Professor Jonathan Moyo, Home Affairs Minister Ignatius Chombo, Local Government Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, ZANU-PF Youth League secretary Kudzanayi Chipanga and several others.
The detainees, who are in army barracks, are said to be members of a faction of the ruling party that were seeking to elevate first lady Grace Mugabe to the post of vice president. President Mugabe fired his longtime ally, Emmerson Mnangagwa, from the position on November 5th.
Mugabe made a public appearance Friday, his first since the military took over state institutions and opened talks aimed at getting the aged leader to resign.
Mugabe, wearing a blue and yellow academic gown, presided over a university graduation ceremony for more than 1,000 students in Harare. The president appeared to fall asleep at times and said nothing about the ongoing political uncertainty.
Venezuelan Opposition Figure Arrives in Spain
Longtime Venezuelan opposition leader Antonio Ledezma arrived in Madrid, Saturday, where he was greeted by his family.
"Venezuela is not on the edge looking into the abyss. It is in the abyss," Ledezma said. "It's collapsing. And that's what I want to talk about with the (Spanish) Prime Minister Rajoy."
Ledezma, who had been under house arrest since 2015 for alleged coup plotting, said he escaped house arrest Friday and went to neighboring Colombia, passing dozens of police and army positions.
Before leaving Colombia, Ledezma said he was planning a “global pilgrimage” to fight for political freedom in Venezuela. Ledezma, the former mayor of Caracas, said he had spoken by phone with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, who offered his support.
Colombian immigration authorities said in a statement that Ledezma entered the country legally after crossing the Simon Bolivar bridge that separates the two countries.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro acknowledged the escape of Ledezma, who he mockingly calls “the vampire.”
The 62-year-old Ledezma had spearheaded street protests against Maduro in 2014 that led to months of violence. He spent a few months in jail, before being released and placed under house arrest in 2015 due to health issues.