Step down or we'll let them lynch you: Army warns Mugabe to go as thousands of Zimbabweans take

Zimbabwe’s army told Robert Mugabe to resign or soldiers will step aside and let him be lynched in his mansion, a senior Zimbabwean figure has told MailOnline.

In an exclusive interview, Christopher Mutsvangwa, the chairman of the national war veterans’ association and a former Zanu-PF minister, revealed:

‘The army gave the dictator a message earlier today. Either he steps down or they will let the people in to his mansion to take him.

‘The army is threatening to unleash the people and let Mugabe be lynched. The generals said they will not shoot the people for him. Instead, they will abandon their posts and leave him to his fate.’

Mr Mutsvangwa added: ‘At first, the army was holding him prisoner. Now they are protecting him from the people.'

It comes as rumours spread that the 93-year-old dictator has already fled the country after hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets of Harare to demand that he stands down.

Robert Mugabe is 'shaken, tired and dejected' and has been desperately asking members of his family for advice about whether he should resign, one of the dictator's nephews told MailOnline, as rumours spread that he had gone missing from his mansion.

A separate source said the despot was last seen at about 6:53am today and that his phone has been unreachable ever since.

However, one of his nephews, Patrick Zhuwao, said the dictator was 'ready to die for what is correct’ and had no intention of stepping down.

Thousands of people took to the streets of Harare today in a historic show of unity to demand an end to the 37-year reign of dictator Robert Mugabe.

Military helicopters flew low overhead as huge crowds marched into the centre of the city, waving Zimbabwean flags and chanting 'remove the dictator' and 'Mugabe, our country is not your property'.

Some also shouted 'Ngwena, Ngwena', or 'Crocodile, Crocodile', in support of sacked vice-president Emmanuel 'Crocodile' Mnangagwa, the favourite to become the next leader.

Fiery speeches were delivered at the Harare football stadium to a crowd of hundreds of thousands after a day of chaotic anti-Mugabe parades through the city.

Several speakers shouted 'Viva Zimbabwe', to prolonged cheers and singing from the crowds, mixed with blasts of music over the loudspeakers.

'Mugabe and his typist-cum-wife must go home,' said Victor Matemadanda, the Secretary-General of the Powerful War Veterans' Association.

'Let's go and take back the country from the State House.'

He added: 'If he's not at the State House, let's go to the Blue Roof,' referring to Mr Mugabe's £7.5million mansion where he is under house arrest.

Oppah Muchinguri Kashiri, the country's environment minister who was Mr Mugabe's girlfriend in the Eighties and Nineties and has had physical fights with his wife Grace, said:

'I thank you all for being resolute. Now let's remain focussed and finish what we started. Let's take Mugabe with a strong grip and remove him.'

The mass show of defiance comes as Mugabe has been dramatically thrown out of his own party today after all 10 provinces of Zimbabwe passed a no-confidence motion in the dictator.

It makes it almost impossible for him to continue to cling to power. The decision will be ratified tomorrow and put into effect next week.

Frank Mutsindikwa, 34, said: 'These are tears of joy. I've been waiting all my life for this day. Free at last. We are free at last.'

The 93-year-old will be removed as the head of ZANU-PF but technically remains as president. However, Emmerson 'the Crocodile' Mnangagwa, the sacked Vice President who returned to Zimbabwe on Wednesday, will be installed as the new party leader, it was confirmed today.

It was an unprecedented show of defiance and unity in this notoriously divided country, as ordinary Zimbabweans from across the political spectrum came together as one to oppose the dictator.

Ecstatic crowds marched through central Harare, cheering and hugging soldiers, honking horns, dancing, and singing: 'Bob, you have sold out the country, remember we are the ones who put you there and we are now removing you.'

Ordinary Zimbabweans said they felt like they were dreaming after the 37-year-old dictatorship crumbled before their eyes.

'It's like Christmas,' said one marcher, Fred Mubay, who said Zimbabweans have been suffering for a long time.

Today's protest represented a turning point for the southern African state, where for four decades the public criticism of Mr Mugabe has been met with brutal punishment and even death.

It came as Mr Mugabe was given an ultimatum of 24 hours to resign by the powerful National Liberation War Veterans Association. In a press conference, a spokesman for the group mocked the elderly dictator, saying: 'Mugabe has no war background. He only came to the Front once. The closest Mugabe ever was to the fighting was 400km away.'

During the dictator's rule, forced rallies were often staged to support him. By comparison, everybody attended today's march of their own free will and there was not a single counter-protestor coming out in support of Mr Mugabe.

There were fears that today's event may degenerate into violence, as happened in 2013 when crowds went on the rampage in Harare after an opposition rally.

The march began in a spirit of harmony, however, and the sense of liberation from the shackles of the dictator's secret police was tangible.

Crowds gathered at football pitches close to the city centre and marched towards Freedom Square, formerly known as the Robert Mugabe Square, where a number of political leaders from all parties were to address demonstrators.

The historic rally was all the more remarkable for having been organised by Mr Mugabe's own party, the Zanu-PF, which until Tuesday had treated the despot like a god.

All that changed today as formerly loyal party members openly called Mr Mugabe a 'dictator' and united their efforts in trying to force him to stand down.

Last night, activists armed with megaphones toured towns and villages all over the country in Zanu-PF branded vehicles, calling for as many people to attend the demonstration as possible.

Opposition parties followed the Zanu-PF's lead, mobilising their grassroots network to ensure a major turnout amongst their own supporters.

It is thought that some of the money for mobilising demonstrators was provided by the army, which spearheaded the dramatic attempt to remove Mr Mugabe.

Buses were laid on by the Zanu-PF to ferry thousands of people to the capital to take part in the protest, thought to be the biggest demonstration of its kind in Zimbabwean history.

Mr Mugabe, meanwhile, remained defiant in his Blue Roof mansion, refusing to step down despite the massive pressure heaped upon him by his political rivals, foreign leaders and now his own people.

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