Celebrations as Mugabe quits after 37 years

AP
Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe resigned as president yesterday after 37 years in power.
AP
AFP

Zimbabwe's members of parliament celebrate after Mugabe's resignation in Harare.

Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe resigned as president yesterday after 37 years in power.

“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 a letter which was read out in parliament, sparking cheers and dancing.

Cars began honking horns and people cheered in the streets as the news spread like wildfire across the capital, Harare.

Mugabe, who had been the world’s oldest head of state at 93, said proper procedures should be followed to install new leadership.

His resignation brought an end to impeachment proceedings brought by the ruling ZANU-PF party after its central committee voted to oust the president as party leader and select recently fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa as his replacement, a move that eventually could lead to Mnangagwa becoming head of state.

Currently in exile, Mnangagwa served for decades as Mugabe’s enforcer, with a reputation for being astute and ruthless, more feared than popular.

Before the resignation, crowds rallied outside Parliament, dancing and singing. Some people placed photos of Mugabe in the street so that cars would run over them. 

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC party said the culture of the ruling party “must end” and everyone must put their heads together and work toward free and fair elections.

Mnangagwa had issued a statement earlier in the day saying Mugabe should acknowledge the nation’s “insatiable desire” for a leadership change and resign.

This added to immense pressure on Mugabe to quit after nearly four decades in power, during which he evolved from a champion of the fight against white minority rule into a figure blamed for a collapsing economy, government dysfunction and human rights violations.

“The people of Zimbabwe have spoken with one voice and it is my appeal to President Mugabe that he should take heed of this clarion call and resign forthwith so that the country can move forward and preserve his legacy,” Mnangagwa said in his statement, after more than a week of silence.

Mnangagwa, who fled the country and has not appeared in public during the past week’s political turmoil, said Mugabe had invited him to return to Zimbabwe “for a discussion” on recent events. However, he said he will not return for now, alleging that there had been plans to kill him at the time of his firing.

“I will be returning as soon as the right conditions for security and stability prevail,” said Mnangagwa, who has a loyal support base in the military. “Never should the nation be held at ransom by one person ever again, whose desire is to die in office at whatever cost to the nation.” 

He called for unity and appeared to embrace the prospect of taking over power.

Zimbabwe’s polarizing first lady Grace Mugabe had been positioning herself to succeed her husband, leading a party faction that engineered Mnangagwa’s downfall. The prospect of a dynastic succession alarmed the military, which confined Mugabe to his home last week and targeted what it called “criminals” around him allegedly looting state resources — a reference to associates of the first lady.


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