- Robert Mugabe has resigned as president of Zimbabwe after 37 years.
- He is expected to be replaced by former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
- Mugabe’s departure sparked wild celebrations in parliament and on the streets of Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has resigned with immediate effect following last week’s military coup.
A motion was filed in the Zimbabwean parliament Tuesday afternoon calling on the 93-year-old ruler to be removed from power. Hours later, Mugabe sprung a surprise by handing in his resignation after 37 years as president.
Emmerson Mnangagwa, the former vice president of the ruling ZANU-PF party, is expected to take over as leader within 48 hours, according to a party official.
Mnangagwa was fired by Mugabe two weeks ago in an apparent attempt to smooth a path to the presidency for his wife, Grace. It was this that triggered last week’s military coup.
Celebrations broke out at a joint sitting of parliament when Speaker Jacob Mudenda announced Mugabe’s resignation, according to Reuters.
“I Robert Gabriel Mugabe in terms of section 96 of the constitution of Zimbabwe hereby formally tender my resignation,” said Mudenda, reading the former president’s historic letter.
Below is a BBC video of the announcement. Cheers can be heard in parliament and there were celebrations in the streets of Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital. People were heard chanting “new Zimbabwe.”
— BBC Breaking News (@BBCBreaking) November 21, 2017
Mugabe, who has been in power since Zimbabwe became an independent nation in 1980, was expected to resign in a televised address over the weekend, but did not.
He attempted to continue to govern as normal on Tuesday, and summoned cabinet ministers to a meeting. But only five attended, while 17 went to the impeachment proceedings instead.
Zimbabwean parliament ended the proceedings following Mugabe’s resignation.
British Prime Minister Theresa May welcomed Mugabe’s resignation. She said:
“The resignation of Robert Mugabe provides Zimbabwe with an opportunity to forge a new path free of the oppression that characterised his rule.
“In recent days we have seen the desire of the Zimbabwean people for free and fair elections and the opportunity to rebuild the country’s economy under a legitimate government.
“As Zimbabwe’s oldest friend we will do all we can to support this, working with our international and regional partners to help the country achieve the brighter future it so deserves.”
The US Embassy in Harare said it was a “historic” moment, according to the BBC. It said Zimbabwean’s had “raised their voices and stated peacefully and clearly that the time for change was overdue”
Mugabe is the only leader Zimbabwe has known since a guerrilla struggle ended white-minority rule in the former Rhodesia in 1980. He took the once-rich country to economic ruin and kept his grip on power through repression of opponents.
It is likely to take years to reverse the damage caused by Mugabe’s economic policies. Mugabe’s policies have caused public external debt – most of which is already in arrears – to balloon to more than 40% of gross domestic product, the International Monetary Fund says.