Robert Mugabe will be removed as Zimbabwe president, two sources from the country’s ruling Zanu-PF party have said.
The party will reportedly hold a special central committee meeting this morning to dismiss the 93-year-old as leader.
The meeting is due to start at 10.30am local time and is also set to see the removal of Mugabe’s wife, Grace, as head of the Zanu-PF Women’s League.
It was gathered Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was ousted by Mugabe earlier this month as Zimbabwe’s vice-president, will be reinstated.
The move comes amid what has been a day of celebrations in the capital Harare.
There had been calls for a “Day of Rage” but tens of thousands poured into the streets yesterday convinced that they were seeing the end of Mugabe’s 37-year rule.
Protesters even began marching towards Mugabe’s residence, live television pictures showed.
In scenes reminiscent of the downfall of Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989, men, women and children ran alongside the armoured cars and troops that stepped in this week to oust the only leader Zimbabwe has known since independence in 1980.
The 93-year-old Mugabe has been under house arrest in his lavish ‘Blue Roof’ compound in Harare from where he has watched support from his Zanu-PF party, security services and people evaporate in less than three days.
But Mugabe’s nephew, Patrick Zhuwao, told Reuters the elderly leader and his wife were “ready to die for what is correct” and had no intention of stepping down in order to legitimise what he described as a coup.
Speaking from a secret location in South Africa, Zhuwao said Mugabe had hardly slept since the military seized power on Wednesday but his health was otherwise “good”.
On Harare’s streets, emotions ran high as Zimbabweans spoke of a second liberation for the former British colony, alongside their dreams of political and economic change after two decades of deepening repression and hardship.
“These are tears of joy,” Frank Mutsindikwa, 34, said, holding aloft the Zimbabwean flag. “I’ve been waiting all my life for this day. Free at last. We are free at last.”
The secretary-general of Zimbabwe’s War Veterans Association, Victor Matemadanda, called on those at an anti-Mugabe rally to march on Mugabe’s residence and live television footage showed hundreds of protesters marching in that direction.
“Let us now go and deliver the message that grandfather Mugabe and his typist-cum-wife should go home,” Matemadanda told the crowd in the Harare township of Highfield.
Zimbabweans abroad were also awaiting the end of Mugabe’s rule. Hundreds living in Britain gathered outside the country’s embassy in central London calling on the leader to step aside.
“I am happy today because Bob Mugabe is about to go. He must go. At least if he goes, we’ll have a change of president after so many years of injustice,” said Florence, a 34-year-old who declined to give her last name.
Political sources and intelligence documents seen by Reuters said Mugabe’s exit is likely to pave the way for an interim unity government led by Mnangagwa, a life-long Mugabe aide and former security chief known as “The Crocodile”.
Stabilising the free-falling economy will be the number one priority, the documents said.
The United States, a long-time Mugabe critic, said it was looking forward to a “new era” in Zimbabwe, while President Ian Khama of neighbouring Botswana said Mugabe had no diplomatic support in the region and should resign at once.
Meanwhile Catholic priest Fidelis Mukonori, who has been mediating the negotiations, confirmed Mugabe will meet military commanders for talks on Sunday, state broadcaster ZTV said yesterday.