Mr. Robert Mugabe has resigned as president of Zimbabwe with immediate effect after 37 years in power, the speaker of the country’s parliament has said.
The announcement came during a hearing to impeach Mugabe, and launches the nation into a new era as uncertain as it is hopeful.
The move caps 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 93-year-old autocrat.
A letter submitted to parliament by Mugabe said his decision to resign was voluntary.
Wild jubilation broke out among MPs when the speaker, Jacob Mudenda, made the announcement, and cheers and celebrations spread through the streets of Harare.
“We are elated. It’s time for new blood,” said William Makombore, who said he worked in finance. “I’m 36 and I’ve been waiting for this all my life. I’ve only known one leader.”
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.”
Impeachment proceedings against Mugabe began earlier on Tuesday as Zanu-PF attempted to remove him from office. Thousands of people turned up outside parliament to urge on MPs, chanting, dancing and waving placards in Africa Unity square.
By the end, few options were open to Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe through a mixture of coercion, bribery and revolutionary rhetoric. Support in some branches of the security establishment, such as the police, had evaporated.
His fall will reverberate across a continent where hundreds of millions of people still suffer the authoritarian excesses of rapacious, ruthless rulers, are denied justice by corrupt or incompetent officials and struggle to hold even elected governments to account.
The way is now clear for Emmerson Mnangagwa, the vice-president fired by Mugabe 13 days ago, to take power. He was appointed interim leader of Zanu-PF at a meeting on Sunday.
The military has said it has no intention of staying in power and, according to the constitution, Mnangagwa should now take the place of Mugabe as head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
Shortly before legislators met, Mnangagwa broke more than a week of silence to add his voice to those calling for Mugabe to step down.
Until recently Mugabe’s right-hand man, Mnangagwa, 75, is a veteran of Zimbabwe’s liberation wars and a former spy chief who has close ties with the commanders who led the takeover.
Opposition leaders in Zimbabwe have called for the formation of an inclusive transitional government but risk being sidelined by the army and Zanu-PF.
Mugabe has been under house arrest and key allies of his wife, Grace, have been removed from power since the military took charge last week.
Zanu-PF introduced the motion to impeach and the opposition seconded it. Mugabe had refused to resign until the impeachment proceedings were under way.
The case for impeachment against Mugabe focused heavily on his age and the machinations of his wife, leaving him with as much dignity as possible.
Mnangagwa said in a written statement released on Tuesday morning that he backed impeachment as an “ultimate expression of the will of the people outside an election”.
He had fled into exile earlier this month after being ousted from his position in government and Zanu-PF by a faction allied to Grace Mugabe. His supporters are widely believed to have been behind the coup.