Zimbabweans celebrate after President Robert Mugabe resigns in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Tuesday. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
Zimbabweans celebrate after President Robert Mugabe resigns in Harare, Zimbabwe, on Tuesday. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

The decision by Robert Mugabe to step down as president of Zimbabwe has been widely welcomed by statesmen, organisations and political parties and players in South Africa and across the border.

Mugabe resigned as Zimbabwe’s president on Tuesday shortly after parliament began an impeachment process to end his nearly four decades of rule.

"My decision to resign is voluntary on my part … my desire is to ensure a peaceful nonviolent transition‚" Mugabe said about his resignation.

The 93-year-old leader clung on for a week after an army takeover and expulsion from his own ruling Zanu-PF party, which also told him to leave power.

The army seized power after Mugabe sacked his deputy and Zanu-PF’s favourite to succeed him‚ Emmerson Mnangagwa‚ to smooth a path to the presidency for his wife Grace.

Mnangagwa‚ a former security chief known as The Crocodile‚ will take over as president, Zanu-PF said on Tuesday.

Earlier on Tuesday Mnangagwa had implored the statesman to step down.

"The people of Zimbabwe have clearly spoken on this matter. To me the voice of the people is the voice of God and their lack of trust and confidence in the leadership of President Mugabe has been expressed."

Mnangagwa said if Mugabe resigned the "country can move forward and preserve his legacy".

A similar call was made by Botswana President Ian Khama who called on Mugabe in an open letter to do the "honourable thing" and resign.

"If you really care for them [Zimbabweans]‚ as you profess‚ and if you cannot find it in you to do so‚ then as a Christian do so in the spirit of our Lord in order to usher in a new period going forward of unity‚ peace and prosperity for Zimbabweans and allow your country to be the economic powerhouse it is capable of being."

The open letter was posted on the Botswana government’s Facebook page.

The next generation of leaders must commit itself to upholding the constitution‚ living up to Zimbabwe’s international human rights obligations and treating its people with dignity and justice.
Salil Shetty, secretary-general Amnesty International

Khama added that Zimbabweans have been subject to "untold suffering" for a long time due to poor governance under Mugabe’s leadership and his resignation will pave the way for socio-economic recovery.

On Monday Zambian President Edgar Lungu sent former president Kenneth Kaunda‚ 93‚ to try to convince Mugabe to step down.

"Dr Kaunda used the presidential jet and has already arrived in Harare‚" a senior government source told Reuters on Monday.

Before Mugabe’s resignation‚ President Jacob Zuma had planned to travel to Zimbabwe on Wednesday.

Presidential spokesman Bongani Ngqulunga confirmed on Tuesday afternoon that Zuma would travel to Zimbabwe in his capacity as chairman of the Southern African Development Community (Sadc).

Zuma would be joined by Angolan President and Chairman of the Sadc Organ on Politics‚ Defence and Security João Lourenço. This follows a summit of the Sadc Organ Troika that was held in Luanda‚ Angola‚ on Tuesday. It is unclear whether the group will continue with the planned trip.

"The people of Zimbabwe deserve better"

Reacting to the news on Tuesday, Amnesty International said the next generation of leaders in Zimbabwe must commit to upholding the country’s constitution and living up to its human rights obligations and treating its people with dignity and justice.

"After more than three decades of violent repression‚ the way forward for the country is to renounce the abuses of the past and transition into a new era where the rule of law is respected and those who are responsible for injustices are held to account‚" said secretary-general Salil Shetty.

"During 37 years of president Mugabe’s leadership‚ tens of thousands of people were tortured‚ forcibly disappeared or killed. Mugabe condoned human rights violations‚ defended criminal actions of his officials and allowed a culture of impunity for grotesque crimes to thrive.

"Although Zimbabwe invested heavily in social services in the early years of independence‚ much of this progress was wiped out by later events such as the Operation Murambatsvina forced evictions campaign of 2005‚ which destroyed the homes or livelihoods of 700‚000 people.

"The people of Zimbabwe deserve better. The next generation of leaders must commit itself to upholding the constitution‚ living up to Zimbabwe’s international human rights obligations and treating its people with dignity and justice‚" Shetty said.

"We did it"

Zimbabweans have always had it within themselves to be great‚ but were held back by former president Robert Mugabe, said #ThisFlag activist Pastor Evan Mawarire who was arrested and detained by the Zimbabwean government earlier in 2017 for subversion and "insulting the national flag of Zimbabwe".

"We did it. The world thought we couldn’t do it. We never ever thought this would happen‚" a tearful Mawarire said in an interview with the SABC.

Crying as he spoke‚ Mawarire said they now had the rare opportunity "to do the things we have always wanted to do".

"If you believe‚ and you are united‚ nothing will be impossible."

"Bloodless departure"

Among SA’s political parties, the Congress of the People (COPE) welcomed the resignation‚ saying it rejoiced with the people of Zimbabwe — "at least to the extent that it has been a bloodless departure".

However the party warned that Zimbabwe remained "far from Uhuru".

"There is an outstanding issue and that relates to the abuse of the human rights of citizens of Zimbabwe by Mugabe and his regime. This is a matter that only the people of Zimbabwe can deal with within the dictates of their national constitution‚" said COPE leader Mosiuoa Lekota.

He said that nothing less than a collective effort of all sectors of Zimbabwean society could return Zimbabwe to a sense of normalcy.

Of critical importance was a return to multiparty democracy‚ constitutionalism and concerted efforts to reignite the economy and to clamp down on institutionalised corruption‚ he said.

"Undoubtedly Southern Africa has been rocked by the emancipatory events of the last few days. There are stark lessons to learn for those that have dictatorial‚ dynasty‚ nondemocratic and corrupt tendencies.

"There are many lessons for South Africa to take to heart from the rise and fall of Mugabe‚" Lekota said.

The Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) also welcomed the resignation. "The path they took did not have a pre-script in any political history in the world. No military in human history has managed to ensure the facilitation of the removal of a President without any spill of blood‚ whilst respecting all democratic processes and institutions," said EFF spokesman Mbuyiseni Ndlozi.

The party urged Zimbabwe not to capitulate on their land reform programme and that Zimbabweans must not "return the land to the white settler communities".

"This is one legacy of President Mugabe that must be advanced and protected at all costs … It is the obligation of all pan-Africanists to protect all the gains of decolonisation in Zimbabwe."

The Democratic Alliance (DA) believes elections should be held as soon as possible to democratically elect a new Zimbabwean president‚ because the ruling Zanu-PF cannot be trusted.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane said this in a statement on Tuesday. He added that Zanu-PF has been complicit in the 37 year rule of Mugabe.

"History has taught us that failed liberation movements cannot and will not self-correct. The solution has to come from outside these movements‚" Maimane said. "Zanu PF has become nothing more than a patronage network engulfed in fighting over access to power and state resources for those who are politically connected."

Maimane said: "The story of Robert Mugabe is not a unique one‚ and is all too familiar on our continent. A once liberator of his people‚ Mugabe brought division‚ instability‚ and economic ruin to Zimbabwe as he made the unfortunate transition from liberator to dictator."

Maimane called on Sadc to take the lead in ensuring the installation of an interim government and that elections are held as soon as possible.

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