Thousands Call For Mugabe's Ouster In Zimbabwe
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
Thousands have gathered in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, to celebrate what may be the final moments of the Mugabe era.
(SOUNDBITE OF DEMONSTRATION)
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken).
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: (Foreign language spoken).
SIMON: President Robert Mugabe was in power for nearly four decades until this week - when the military took power. Freelance journalist Jeffrey Barbee is in Harare and joins us now. Jeffrey, thanks for being with us.
JEFFREY BARBEE, BYLINE: Thanks so much for having me, Scott.
SIMON: Jeffrey, you've come into a secure location to file for us. But what was it like out on the streets?
BARBEE: Well, it's something that Zimbabweans and observers like myself haven't seen in decades. We have tens of thousands of people in the streets today - jubilant, not a rock to be thrown. And what I've seen - absolutely peaceful but excited.
SIMON: What do people tell you?
BARBEE: People are really excited to see the end of Mugabe. We've seen posters, and we've spoken to some people like this gentleman who has a lot to say about the end of Robert Mugabe's rule.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Yeah, the army did a good job. It was the first step that did - to encourage us to do the right thing. We are happy because they've just met people to come together for this - the day we've got today. So army did a good job. I would say that once again.
SIMON: Jeffrey, Robert Mugabe made his first public appearance yesterday at a college commencement. What was that like? What was the public reaction?
BARBEE: Well, I think that he was trying to sort of enforce the fact that he was still in charge here - he had sort of come out from under house arrest - and that he was still firmly in control. And yet, he fell asleep at that commencement. And I think that that's a good parable to look at the end of his rule, you know. There was this sort of man sleeping at the helm of a country ready to move on.
SIMON: How did we get here? I don't know of anyone who said this was going to happen any time soon.
BARBEE: Well, we got here because a group of military officers took it upon themselves. The head of the Zimbabwean defense force, the ZDF, said enough is enough. He felt that they were being unfairly sidelined by the G40, which is the 40-year-old Zanu-PF young people coming into the fore. And they were championed by Grace Mugabe. So it was really about a fight between the Zimbabwean defense force and this new guard that Grace Mugabe was leading.
SIMON: Yeah. And they were concerned that Grace Mugabe would take power for - if her husband died in office first.
BARBEE: Absolutely. And that was the forcing mechanism of this particular coup that is not a coup. And that mechanism was that Grace and Robert Mugabe fired Emmerson Mnangagwa who was his vice president and one of the champions of the Zimbabwean defense force.
SIMON: Jeffrey, you've covered Mugabe's reign over the years. Is the group of officers who've taken power - are they democratic? They want elections? Do they want a real change?
BARBEE: I would say that that's an excellent question, Scott. These people are in some ways some of the most undemocratic people that you could possibly put your finger on here. Some of them - in particular, Emmerson Mnangagwa was directly responsible for the crackdown on democracy here in 2008. He led the Joint Operations Command, which was personally responsible for death of people in custody, beatings, the disruption of the democratic process here.
SIMON: Journalist Jeffrey Barbee speaking to us on Skype from Harare. Thanks so much for being with us.
BARBEE: Thank you so much for having me, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.