Jubilation: Zimbabweans celebrate after Robert Mugabe resigned as president on Tuesday. The bombshell news was delivered by the parliament speaker to a special joint session of the assembly that had convened to impeach Mugabe. Picture: REUTERS
Jubilation: Zimbabweans celebrate after Robert Mugabe resigned as president on Tuesday. The bombshell news was delivered by the parliament speaker to a special joint session of the assembly that had convened to impeach Mugabe. Picture: REUTERS

Zimbabwe’s long-ruling president, Robert Mugabe, tendered his resignation to speaker of parliament Jacob Mudenda on Tuesday, minutes before MPs were to vote on his impeachment, leaving the country without a leader.

It is understood that Mugabe has already left the country, presumably for the Far East. He has often visited Singapore and Malaysia for health checks.

He had recently sacked one of his vice-presidents, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who then fled to SA, while his other deputy, Phekezela Mphoko, left the country with a number of close Mugabe allies after the army had taken control.

The resignation marked an end to Mugabe’s 37-year rule, and sparked wild celebrations in Harare’s streets. They continued late into the night as Zimbabweans rejoiced at his departure, after he had for several days refused to step down.

Parliament had started impeaching Mugabe on Tuesday when the resignation was tendered to Mudenda. Monica Mutsvangwa, Zanu-PF senator and wife of war veterans leader Chris Mutsvangwa, had tabled the motion in the national assembly. In it she listed charges of serious misconduct against Mugabe, which included the failure to carry out his duties under the country’s constitution, due to ill health, old age and physical and mental incapacity.

It is not clear how the army and Zanu-PF will navigate around the fact that Mnangagwa was recently fired

The motion was seconded by Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) MP James Maridadi, who made an impassioned plea to Zanu-PF MPs to vote the aged leader out of office.

As MPs prepared to cast their vote, justice minister Happyton Bonyongwe approached the speaker with a letter. Mudenda asked for a moment and then said that he was cancelling the proceedings of the joint sitting of the national assembly and senate with an important announcement.

"Following my verbal communication with the speaker of the national assembly, at 13.53 hours today, intimating my intention to resign as the president of the republic of Zimbabwe, I Robert Gabriel Mugabe in terms of section 96 of subsection 91 of the constitution of Zimbabwe hereby formally tender my resignation," Mudenda read from the resignation letter.

Jubilation broke out at the Harare International Conference Centre where MPs had gathered and the session of parliament ended. Wild celebrations broke out in the room, with MPs across the political divide hugging each other.

Mudenda said an acting head of state would be named by the end of the day on Wednesday.

Car hooters blared and cheering crowds raced through the streets. "We are just so happy that things are finally going to change," Togo Ndhlalambi, a hairdresser, said.

"We woke up every morning waiting for this day. This country has been through tough times."

"I am so happy that Mugabe is gone, 37 years under a dictatorship is not a joke," said Tinashe Chakanetsa. "I am hoping for a new Zimbabwe ruled by the people and not by one person. We need leaders who are selected by the people and not rulers. I am looking forward to get a job after our economy recovers."

"It’s shocking, that guy was powerful, very powerful," said barber Wright Chirombe, one of those who had joined the euphoric street celebrations.

It is widely expected that Mnangagwa will be appointed acting president, but it is not clear how the army and Zanu-PF will navigate around the fact that Mnangagwa was recently fired and is no longer a member of the government as required by the constitution.

President Jacob Zuma and his Angolan counterpart Joao Lourenco are expected in Zimbabwe on Wednesday to assess the situation in accordance with Southern African Development Community troika meeting resolutions passed in Angola on Tuesday.

Photos of Mugabe’s main strategist, Jonathan Moyo, surfaced on social media in which he was seen alongside Savior Kasukuwere on a flight bound for Mozambique. Moyo took to his Twitter account to post a message that he was proud to have served under Mugabe.

Nelson Chamisa, one of the three deputies in the MDC, said it was the beginning of a new era and history had been rewritten.

David Coltart, the former education minister, said it was the "end of a tyrannical" regime and a long battle lay ahead for the country to lift itself up, after being reduced to a basket case as its economy tanked.

News of Mugabe’s resignation were welcomed across the globe. British Prime Minister Theresa May said in London that Mugabe’s resignation gave Zimbabwe a fresh chance.

"The resignation of Robert Mugabe provides Zimbabwe with an opportunity to forge a new path, free of the oppression that characterised his rule," May said. Britain, as "Zimbabwe’s oldest friend", would do all it could to support the country.

The US called for free and fair elections and "unwavering respect for the rule of law" after Mugabe’s resignation.

"Tonight marks a historic moment for Zimbabwe," the US embassy in Harare said in a statement. "Whatever short-term arrangements the government may establish, the path forward must lead to free, fair and inclusive elections."

With Reuters and AFP

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