Jubilant Zimbabweans brought a carnival spirit to a grey, wet corner of London on Saturday, with around 150 people gathering outside the country’s embassy to mark the demise of Robert Mugabe’s regime.
Members of London’s sizeable Zimbabwean community sipped beer and whisky while dancing around a makeshift sound system, waving placards reading “Mugabe Out” and bobbing umbrellas in time with the music.
“It’s cold, it’s raining, I don’t need to be here but I’m here… I know this is the beginning — and the end of Robert Mugabe,” former soldier Oswell Mwaimboti, 37, told AFP.
“I’m the happiest Zimbabwean in the world”.
The pedestrianised zone outside the grandiose embassy on The Strand, a stone’s throw from Trafalgar Square, has hosted a vigil every Saturday since 2002 to protest Mugabe’s regime.
But this Saturday, shoppers stopped in their tracks to observe the buoyant crowd, many of whom were wearing Zimbabwe football shirts and waving scarves.
It was one of many gatherings around the world to celebrate the crumbling of Mugabe’s ruthless regime, which had controlled the country for nearly 40 years.
– ‘Terrible time’ –
While the future remains uncertain, the mood was one of relief.
“Nervousness stops at the door, now is the happiness,” said Lazarus Matiyemga, 50, who moved to Britain 17 years ago.
“I’ve seen it all, it went through my eyes. It has been a terrible time, but hope starts with you, if you don’t have it, there’s no hope.”
He and friend Lyle Mupinda, 50, were holding a cardboard sign, reading; “One Zimbabwe, one nation, one voice, one people”.
“What people are doing today, all over the world, is a clear message to Mugabe that enough is enough, we don’t want to live in fear anymore,” said Mupinda, who moved to Britain as a political refugee 10 years ago.
“We are not supposed to be poor, we’ve got gold, nickel and platinum.”
Revellers toasted the army for engineering 93-year-old Mugabe’s downfall.
“I give respect to the army general, he opened the gates and it is up us to walk through those gates,” said Mwaimboti.
Support worker Mercy Kadzutu-Mwakipasile, 57, turned up in camouflage fatigues in honour.
“It’s high time, people have been suffering a lot, people are dying because of no medication, no health care, no education, transport is terrible,” she said.
“We were the bread country of Africa, but we are really fighting. I’ve been waiting for this day for 30 years”.
Matiyemga urged the next leader to create a “good, fair, level playing on which you can excel and face the challenges of life”, while expressing a more sombre sentiment that hung over the celebration.
“I’ve missed a lot my friends, family and my own food. It will be a blessing to go home.”