Robert Mugabe resigned as Zimbabwe’s President yesterday, a week after the army and his former political allies moved against him, ending his 37 years of rule.
Emmerson Mnangagwa, a former vice president, who was sacked by Mugabe will be sworn in today.
The 75-year-old was removed from office and exiled 13 days after Mr. Mugabe accused him of disloyalty and insubordination.
Mr. Mugabe had reportedly taken the action to pave way for his wife, Grace, to emerge as the new leader of ruling Zanu-PF ahead of the country’s general election next year.
Mr. Mnangagwa is popular amongst the powerful War Veterans group and the Zimbabwean military chiefs.
Mugabe, the 93-year-old had clung on for a week after an army takeover and expulsion from his own ruling ZANU-PF party.
He resigned shortly after parliament began an impeachment process seen as the only legal way to force him out.
Wild celebrations broke out at a joint sitting of parliament when Speaker Jacob Mudenda announced Mugabe’s resignation and suspended the impeachment procedure.
People danced and car horns blared on the streets of Harare at news that the era of Mugabe – who led Zimbabwe since independence in 1980 – was finally over.
Some people held posters of Zimbabwean Army Chief, Gen. Constantino Chiwenga and former Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose sack this month triggered the military takeover that forced Mugabe to resign.
Mugabe is the only leader Zimbabwe has known since a guerrilla struggle ended white-minority rule in the former Rhodesia.
During his reign, he took the once-rich country to economic ruin and kept his grip on power through repression of opponents.
He styled himself as the ‘’Grand Man of African politics’’ and kept the admiration of many people across Africa.
The army seized power after Mugabe sacked Mnangagwa, ZANU-PF’s favourite to succeed him, to smooth a path to the presidency for his wife Grace, 52, known to her critics as “Gucci Grace” for her reputed fondness for luxury shopping.
But Mugabe refused to resign; prompting the impeachment procedure which would have been the only legal was to force him out.
Mnangagwa, whose where about is unknown after fleeing the country in fear for his safety, is expected to take over as president.
A former security chief, known as The Crocodile, was a key lieutenant to Mugabe for decades and was accused of participating in repression against Zimbabweans, that challenged the leader.
Reuters reported in September that Mnangagwa was plotting to succeed Mugabe, with army backing at the helm of a broad coalition.
The plot posited an interim unity government with international blessing to allow for Zimbabwe’s re-engagement with the world after decades of isolation from global lenders and donors.
Mugabe led Zimbabwe’s liberation war and is hailed as one of post-colonial Africa’s founding fathers and a staunch supporter of the drive to free neighbouring South Africa from apartheid in 1994.
But many say he has damaged Zimbabwe’s economy, democracy and judiciary by staying in power for too long and has used violence to crush perceived political opponents.
Since the crisis began, Mugabe has been mainly confined to his “Blue Roof” mansion in the capital where Grace is also believed to be.
Members of Parliament (MPs) who were debating President Robert Mugabe’s impeachment yesterday reacted to his sudden resignation.
“The country is relieved. Here is a man who has done so much for the country but this opportunity should give him the chance to rest,” said ZANU-PF spokesperson, Simon Khaya Moyo.
“Mugabe’s resignation should be a lesson for Africa and the West that we are capable of holding our leaders to account and follow democratic norms. It’s also a lesson that despotic tendencies can only be tolerated for sometimes but people will take their power back,” said Webster Shamu.
“It was inevitable. But unfortunately, it took time for Robert Mugabe to appreciate that his time was gone he did not have to go through this humiliation but at the end of the day, I’m elated for the people of Zimbabwe who have had to bear with a dictator for 37 years we can now beginning a new chapter to go forward,” said Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Chief Whip Innocent Gonese.
“Absolutely delighted the menace is gone now the country has a chance for a clean start,” – said the leader of Zimbabwe’s veterans of the war of liberation from Britain, Chris Mutsvangwa, seen as the architect of the massive demonstrations against Mugabe’s rule at the weekend.
“This is a big moment for the country. It is a new beginning and going forward we call for unity so that we can rebuild this country,” said MDC Vice President, Nelson Chamisa.
Yesterday’s development capped an astonishing eight-day crisis that started when the military took over last week in order to block the rise to power of Mugabe’s wife and her faction within the ruling ZANU-PF party, and then developed into a popular revolt against the ageing autocrat.
“We are elated! It’s time for new blood. I’m 36 and I’ve been waiting for this all my life, I’ve only known one leader,” said William Makombore, who works in finance.
Munyaradzi Chisango, celebrating nearby, said: “I’m 35 and I have children. I was born under Mugabe, and they were born under him. This is going to put Zimbabwe back on the map.”
Thousands of Zimbabweans had turned up outside parliament to urge on MPs, chanting, dancing and waving placards in Africa Unity Square.
Cars blasted their horns in the capital Harare as thousands jubilantly poured onto the streets to celebrate the termination of his presidency.
Some carried placards with photographs Army Chief Chiwenga and the ousted vice president as they amassed in the city centre.
Mildred Tadiwa was out on the streets with her five-month-old daughter Ivana Chizhanje yesterday.
“I am so excited,” she said. “My baby turns five months today and the president has resigned. I wanted to go out and celebrate with everyone but she is asleep. So, I’ve just come out to walk around and see for myself.
“I’m excited for myself, my baby, the whole nation. My daughter will grow up in a better Zimbabwe.”