Chris Nyika's message for former president Robert Mugabe. Picture: Botho Molosankwe/The Star

Harare - Traffic jammed the streets of central Harare as people heard the announcement that Robert Mugabe had quit. 

The summer sun set fast and street lights flickered on people jumping, shouting, hooting, ululating embracing, sobbing, laughing and screaming around the old colonial buildings along the Samora Machel Avenue from the east to the west of the city.

“I want to see him in leg irons,” shouted a man in Fourth Street, grinning so broadly his face seemed split.

Shouting obscenities in his native Shona language and in English, a skinny teenager collapsed on the pavement laughing and clutching his phone.

In shabby, litter-strewn Chitiungwisa, a dormitory town, adjacent to Harare south, a wife and mother of two young sons was too breathless to speak: "We are in the streets. We can’t stay inside, we have to celebrate the whole night by dancing and screaming,” she shouted down the phone.

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MDC chairman Lovemore Moyo welcomed the fall of Mugabe as the perfect indication that proves a new beginning is possible for Zimbabwe.

"As the MDC, we are beyond excited about this development. It was long overdue. We know that it is a relief to all Zimbabweans both at home and outside. Ït is time for all of us to come together in the same spirit used to rescue the country from the clutches of this dictatorship," said Moyo. He, however cautioned that there is still a lot of work to be done to untangle years of misrule.

"We want to warn people that while it is time to celebrate, it must be remembered that a dictator does not work in isolation. Mugabe was not walking alone as he plundered the country for 37 years. Yes we can thank the army for finally standing with the people but let us not for that it is the same military that played a major role in building the Mugabe that we know," said the MDC chairman.

A voice of caution and sobriety came from David Coltart, who has acted against Zanu-PF and Mugabe for more than 30 years and was a founding member of the opposition MDC and education minister in the 2009 -  2013 inclusive government: "We have removed a tyrant, we haven't yet removed a tyranny. There is no doubt in my mind that this is obviously a great day, I am sobered by two things. 

"I think of people those who lost their lives fighting Mugabe’s tyranny over three decades, and I have a thought for the dear friends who lost their lives. The removal of Robert Mugabe doesn’t remove the structural nature of this tyrannical regime. All those structures are still in place, such as the tight control of the media by state, the police and military. None of that has changed. There is now going to be closer contact between the military and the executive. So yes, I am celebrating tonight. I have no doubt we have a lot more work to ensure this isn’t a false dawn.”

He and three MDC MP’s, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, Jessie Majome and Douglas Mwonzora all spoke in support of what Coltart said was the “rule of law. People are being held by the military which is against the constitution. “We are very concerned,” they said. Misihaiabwi-Mushonga said she was troubled by the entire episode from when the military took over. “This is very worrying. We are not happy about that side of it,” she said.

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Coltart said the continued detention of an unknown number of G40 supporters was “a breach of the constitution. They have not been brought to court within 48 hours. It is illegal and unconstitutional for them to be held and we must return to the rule of law immediately.” About 50 of them have fled the country and they are reportedly all worried about the security of their families.

Coltart said he anticipated Mnangagwa would be sworn in as president on Wednesday, but technically Phelekezela Mphoko, national vice president but expelled from Zanu-PF was now president of Zimbabwe. He was out of the country when the military took over but has since returned. He has not yet been seen in public yet. Mr Mnangagwa will be appointed by the Speaker of parliament according to the constitution agreed in 2013.

"We hope this opens up a new tractory for the country, where people are respected and the rule of law is restored,” Mwonzora said. He played a major role in constructing the latest constitution.

Both Coltart and other MDC leaders said they believed Mugabe and his wife Grace would remain in Zimbabwe and would be well-protected by the government. “He is seen as an iconic leader in Africa. I doubt he will be forced to leave,” Coltart said.

Independent Foreign Sevice and The Star