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article imageZimbabwean students rage against defiant Mugabe

By Reagan MASHAVAVE (AFP)     Nov 20, 2017 in World

Branding President Robert Mugabe a dark force who threatened their future, several hundred Zimbabwean students on Monday added their voices to the clamour for the 93-year-old autocrat to quit.

Classes at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare were cancelled and examinations postponed as students raged over Mugabe's insistence on staying in office, defying opposition from the military, his party and the public.

Mugabe's critics blame him for the country's decades-long economic collapse, widespread state-sponsored rights abuses and the crumbling education system.

But emotions are spilling over after a weekend of officially-encouraged protests stoked hopes he would quit -- which were then dashed by his TV address on Sunday that simply ignored the resignation demands.

"Mugabe must pave the way for a new leader," student leader Shepherd Raradza told AFP on the university campus.

"Our exams have been deferred, but what is the purpose of getting a degree if you don't find a job?

"We are bitter and disappointed by Mugabe's speech yesterday -- that is why we are demonstrating."

By some measures, Zimbabwe has an unemployment rate of over 90 percent. Millions of citizens, many of them young and skilled, have fled abroad to seek a better life.

In a televised address late Sunday, the 93-year-old leader defied expectations he would quit, pitching the country into a second week of political crisis after the army took power.

His once-loyal ZANU-PF party -- who has already sacked him and told him to resign as head of state -- has said it will soon begin impeachment proceedings against him.

- Youth against Mugabe -

"We are standing in solidarity with our army. Mugabe must resign as soon as possible, things are not working because of his ruinous policies," said law student Chipo Yemurai.

Students waved the national flag and chanted "Mugabe must go" and "Forward with our soldiers" at the peaceful protest.

Some students carried placards praising the army intervention and hailing military chief Constantino Chiwenga.

"We salute you commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces" read some placards.

Others read "Bring back our VP" in reference to former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose sacking by Mugabe triggered the political crisis.

On Friday Mugabe presided over a graduation ceremony at another university in the capital, his first public appearance since the army takeover.

"As students we are the vanguard of this revolution and we want to urge all universities to take part in demonstrations against Mugabe," said Percy Kina, a 21-year-old veterinary student.

"We have to decide, lead and take action."

The students are also calling for the university to rescind the widely-ridiculed doctorate granted to Mugabe's wife Grace in 2014.

The PhD was granted to Grace, a former typist in the president's office, only months after she enrolled for the course, and shortly after she had been endorsed to lead the ruling party's women's league.

"Our PhD was given to Grace Mugabe just for nothing," said social work student Ivy Jayijana.

"There's no employment and inflation is rising every day. So we are sick and tired because of that."

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