HARARE -- Zimbabwe was set for more political turmoil Saturday with protests planned as veterans of the independence war, activists and ruling party leaders called publicly for President Robert Mugabe to be forced from office.
The marches will cap an unprecedented week in which generals seized power and put Mugabe under house arrest in a stunning turnaround for the president who has ruled since 1980.
The 93-year-old autocrat did not resign in talks with the army chief on Thursday and sources suggested the veteran leader was “buying time” to negotiate an end to his 37 year reign.
Mugabe appeared publicly for the first time at a pre-planned graduation ceremony in Harare on Friday, further stoking questions over the status of his discussions with General Constantino Chiwenga, who led the military power grab.
Later in the day, eight of Mugabe’s ruling party’s 10 regional branches took to state television to call for him to go.
Cornelius Mupereri, a spokesman for ZANU-PF’s Midlands region, was one of several party barons to appear on ZBC’s nightly news to read almost identical statements calling on Mugabe to quit.
Chris Mutsvangwa, chairman of the independence war veterans’ association, said “the game is up” for Mugabe and announced street protests against the president.
“It’s done, it’s finished... The generals have done a fantastic job,” he said at a press conference in Harare.
“We want to restore our pride and (Saturday) is the day... we can finish the job which the army started.”
The veterans’ association supports ousted vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa — whose sacking sparked the army intervention on Tuesday.
They are organizing a gathering at a large sports field in a working class suburb on the outskirts of Harare.
It was the location of Mugabe’s first speech after returning from exile in Mozambique in 1979.
Demonstrators had begun to arrive in the area by midnight local time.