Sunday 22 July 2018

'Welcome to the new Zimbabwe' - Jubilation on the streets as Robert Mugabe resigns

  • Mugabe resigns as parliament began impeachment proceedings against him
  • Celebrations erupt on streets
  • Recently fired vice-president to take over as president 'within 48 hours'
Zimbabweans celebrate after President Robert Mugabe resigns in Harare, Zimbabwe November 21, 2017. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
Zimbabweans celebrate after President Robert Mugabe resigns in Harare, Zimbabwe November 21, 2017. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe has resigned as president after 37 years in power, as parliament began impeachment proceedings against him.

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 Mr 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 centre where the politicians met.

"Change was overdue... Maybe this change will bring jobs," said 23-year-old Thomas Manase, an unemployed university graduate.

Mr 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".

Zimbabweans living in South Africa celebrate after President Robert Mugabe resigns, in Johannesburg, South Africa November 21, 2017. REUTERS/James Oatway
Zimbabweans living in South Africa celebrate after President Robert Mugabe resigns, in Johannesburg, South Africa November 21, 2017. REUTERS/James Oatway
Zimbabweans living in South Africa celebrate after President Robert Mugabe resigns, in Johannesburg, South Africa November 21, 2017. REUTERS/James Oatway
Zimbabweans drink, dance, and sing as they celebrate at night at an intersection in downtown Harare, Zimbabwe Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. Mugabe resigned as president with immediate effect Tuesday after 37 years in power, shortly after parliament began impeachment proceedings against him. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Zimbabweans drink, sing, and dance on top of passing vehicles as they celebrate at night at an intersection in downtown Harare, Zimbabwe Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. Mugabe resigned as president with immediate effect Tuesday after 37 years in power, shortly after parliament began impeachment proceedings against him. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Zimbabweans celebrate Tuesday Nov. 21, 2017, in the streets of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, after hearing the news that President Robert Mugabe had resigned. Mugabe resigned with immediate effect Tuesday after 37 years in power, shortly after parliament began impeachment proceedings against him. (AP Photo/Lucky Tshuma)
Zimbabweans celebrate next to a sign after President Robert Mugabe resigns in Harare, Zimbabwe November 21, 2017. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
Zimbabweans living in South Africa celebrate after President Robert Mugabe resigns, in Johannesburg, South Africa November 21, 2017. REUTERS/James Oatway
Zimbabweans celebrate outside the parliament building immediately after hearing the news that President Robert Mugabe had resigned (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Zimbabweans celebrate after President Robert Mugabe resigns in Harare, Zimbabwe November 21, 2017. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
Zimbabweans celebrate after President Robert Mugabe resigns in Harare, Zimbabwe November 21, 2017. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
Zimbabweans celebrate with soldiers on a military tank after hearing the news that President Robert Mugabe had resigned, in Harare, Zimbabwe Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
Zimbabweans celebrate after hearing the news that President Robert Mugabe had resigned, in Harare, Zimbabwe Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)
Zimbabweans reach out to touch and thank army soldiers, as they celebrate outside the parliament building immediately after hearing the news that President Robert Mugabe had resigned, in downtown Harare, Zimbabwe Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017(AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Zimbabweans celebrate the resignation of President Robert Mugabe in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe November 21, 2017 in this still image from a social media video. Hemal Ranchod via Reuters
Zimbabweans celebrate after President Robert Mugabe resigns in Harare, Zimbabwe November 21, 2017. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo
Zimbabweans celebrate after President Robert Mugabe resigns in Harare, Zimbabwe November 21, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings
Zimbabweans celebrate outside the parliament building immediately after hearing the news that President Robert Mugabe had resigned, in downtown Harare, Zimbabwe Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Protesters calling for the impeachment of President Robert Mugabe demonstrate outside the parliament building in downtown Harare, Zimbabwe Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Zimbabweans celebrate outside the parliament building immediately after hearing the news that President Robert Mugabe had resigned, in downtown Harare, Zimbabwe Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Zimbabweans celebrate after hearing about the resignation of President Robert Mugabe in Harare, Tuesday, Nov, 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi)

"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," Mr 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.

Mr Mnangagwa, who fled the country after his removal on November 6, "is not far from here," Mr Matuke said.

Mr Mugabe can participate in a formal handover of power "so that Mnangagwa moves with speed to work for the country," Mr Matuke said.

Mr Mugabe's 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 replace him with Mr Mnangagwa, a former ally of Mr Mugabe who served for decades as his enforcer with a reputation for being astute and ruthless, more feared than popular.

Before the resignation, crowds rallied outside the parliament building, dancing and singing. Some people placed photos of Mr 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 towards free and fair elections. His party had seconded the impeachment motion.

Earlier on Tuesday, Mr Mnangagwa said in a statement that Mr Mugabe should acknowledge the nation's "insatiable desire" for a leadership change and resign immediately.

Mr Mnangagwa, a former justice and defence minister, added to the pressure on Mr Mugabe to quit after a long rule 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.

"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," said Mr Mnangagwa, who has a loyal support base in the military.

Zimbabwe's polarising first lady, Grace Mugabe, had been positioning herself to succeed her husband, leading a party faction that engineered Mr Mnangagwa's removal.

The prospect of a dynastic succession alarmed the military, which confined Mr Mugabe to his home last week and targeted what it called "criminals" around him who allegedly were looting state resources - a reference to associates of the first lady.

Mrs Mugabe has not been seen since the military stepped in.

Mr Mnangagwa was targeted by US sanctions in the early 2000s for undermining democratic development in Zimbabwe, according to the Atlantic Council, a US-based policy institute.

However, J Peter Pham, an Africa expert at the council, noted that some Zimbabwean opposition figures have appeared willing to have dialogue with Mr Mnangagwa in order to move the country forward, and that the international community should consider doing the same.

"We're not saying whitewash the past, but it is in the interests of everyone that Zimbabwe is engaged at this critical time," Mr Pham said in a statement.

On Tuesday, Zimbabweans simply enjoyed the moment.

"Today's a good day," said Eric Machona, a Harare resident. "People are very happy."

Here is a look at Mugabe's 37 years in power:

1980: Mr Mugabe is named prime minister after independence elections.

1982: Military action begins in Matabeleland against perceived uprising; the government is accused of killing thousands of civilians.

1987: Mr Mugabe changes the constitution and becomes president.

1994: Mr Mugabe receives an honorary British knighthood.

2000: Land seizures of white-owned farms begin; Western donors cut off aid.

2005: The United States calls Zimbabwe an "outpost of tyranny".

2008: Mr Mugabe and opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai agree to share power after a contested election; Britain's Queen Elizabeth II annuls Mr Mugabe's honorary knighthood.

2011: Prime Minister Mr Tsvangirayi declares powersharing a failure amid violence

2013: Mr Mugabe wins a seventh term; the opposition alleges election fraud.

2016: #ThisFlag protest movement emerges; independence war veterans turn on Mr Mugabe, calling him "dictatorial".

2017: Mr Mugabe begins campaigning for the 2018 elections.

November 6: Mr Mugabe fires deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa, appearing to position first lady Grace Mugabe for the vice president post.

November 15: The army announces it has Mr Mugabe and his wife in custody as the military appears to take control.

November 18: Tens of thousands of Zimbabweans march against Mr Mugabe.

November 19: Ruling party Central Committee tells Mr Mugabe to resign as president by noon on Monday or face impeachment. He addresses the nation but does not step aside.

November 21: Mr Mugabe resigns shortly after Parliament begins impeachment proceedings.

Press Association

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