Johannesburg – The struggle is not over for Zimbabwe as the victorious mood inspired by the resignation of former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe looks set to be short-lived.
Activists on Wednesday morning said the "oppressive" political system that kept Mugabe in power and disregarded the needs of citizens was complicated and would not be dismantled by his exit.
"Yesterday (Tuesday) was a victory, but the struggle is not done. The Mugabe infrastructure, the culture, the ideology, the system that I refer to as 'Mugabeism' is still there," Maureen Kademaunga said.
Kademaunga, an activist from Zimbabwe and leader of the #SheVotes campaign, was speaking at a Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum panel discussion in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, on Wednesday morning.
Zimbabwe Solidarity Forum veteran and human rights activist Venetia Govender and southern Africa director of Human Rights Watch's Africa division, Dewa Mavhinga, also formed part of the panel discussion.
Mugabe resigned on Tuesday with immediate effect after 37 years in power, shortly after Parliament began impeachment proceedings against him.
"This is an opportunity for civil societies and for poor democracy movements to start mobilising and going forward," Kademaunga said.
She said Mugabe's stepping down had unshackled Zimbabweans who should now demand free and fair elections.
Govender agreed with Kademaunga that the biggest challenge Zimbabweans faced was the country's political system.
"The challenge going forward would be the system that kept Mugabe in power, the system that enabled him to do what he did and a system that protected him – that system is very much still in place," Govender said.
Govender said the second challenge for Zimbabweans was how to ensure that they never find themselves in the same situation again.
"Never again to face the humiliation, indignity and the oppression that they had to endure for the last 18 years. It is an immediate challenge and also a long-term one," Govender said.
She said the next step would be the most difficult.
'We need a fresh start'
"It can be a hallelujah moment now, but it could also be a moment to realise that the hard work starts now."
Mavhinga, however, highlighted the role the military had played over the years and in the resignation of Mugabe.
He recalled the "final push" protest in Zimbabwe, back in 2003, when the military was sent by Mugabe to "crush" protesters.
"I remember clearly in one of the townships in Harare when a soldier put his boot to my head, crushing it against the tar before we were detained for 80 days and 80 nights," he said.
He said Mugabe and the military were cut from the same cloth, adding that the military's involvement had been a key factor in the country's instability.
"These are comrades and allies whose system remains and continues. The military stopped and reversed the will of the people during elections in 2008. The military has invited people to their table, but on their terms."
He said comprehensive development in Zimbabwe was needed.
"We need human rights, we need development, we need accountability and we need a fresh start for everyone."