Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe resigned on Tuesday, succumbing to a week of overwhelming pressure from the military that put him under house arrest, lawmakers from the ruling party and opposition who started impeachment proceedings and a population that surged into the streets to say 37 years in power was enough.
The capital, Harare, erupted in jubilation after news spread that the 93-year-old leader’s resignation letter was read out by the speaker of parliament, whose members had gathered to impeach Mugabe after he ignored escalating calls to quit since a military takeover. Cars honked and people danced and sang across the city in a spectacle of free expression that would have been impossible during his rule.
“Welcome to the new Zimbabwe,” people chanted outside a conference center where the lawmakers met.”Change was overdue. … Maybe this change will bring jobs,” said 23-year-old Thomas Manase, an unemployed university graduate.
Mugabe, who was the world’s oldest head of state, said in his letter that legal procedures should be followed to install a new president “no later than tomorrow.”
“My decision to resign is voluntary on my part and arises from my concern for the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe and my desire for a smooth, non-violent transfer of power,” Mugabe said in the message read out by parliamentary speaker Jacob Mudenda.
Recently fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa would take over as the country’s leader within 48 hours, said a ruling party official, Lovemore Matuke. Mnangagwa, who fled the country after his firing on Nov. 6, “is not far from here,” Matuke said.
Mugabe can participate in a formal handover of power “so that Mnangagwa moves with speed to work for the country,” Matuke said.