Harare, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, who once vowed to rule for life, resigned on Tuesday, succumbing to a week of overwhelming pressure from the military that put him under house arrest, lawmakers from the ruling party and opposition who started impeachment proceedings and a population that surged into the streets to say 37 years in power was enough.

The capital, Harare, erupted in jubilation after news spread that the 93-year-old leader’s resignation letter had been read out by the speaker of parliament, whose members had gathered to impeach Mugabe after he ignored escalating calls to quit since a military takeover. Well into the night, cars honked and people danced and sang in a spectacle of free expression that would have been impossible during his years in power, whose early promise after the end of white minority rule in 1980 was overtaken by economic collapse, government dysfunction and human rights violations.

“Welcome to the new Zimbabwe!” people chanted outside the conference center where the lawmakers had met. “This is the best day of my life,” one man declared.

Citizens celebrated atop cars, clustered around a tank and shook hands with soldiers who were hailed as saviors for their role in dislodging Mugabe, a once-formidable politician who crushed dissent or sidelined opponents but, in the end, was a lonely figure abandoned by virtually all his allies.

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

It was a call echoed by many, and which pointed to the challenges ahead for Zimbabwe, which used to be a regional breadbasket but has since suffered hyperinflation, cash shortages, chronic mismanagement and massive joblessness. And, while Zimbabweans seemed almost universally united in their wish to see an end to the Mugabe era, the hard work of building institutions and preparing for what they hope are free and fair elections scheduled for next year has yet to begin.

Mugabe, who was the world’s oldest head of state, said in his resignation letter that legal procedures should be followed to install a new president “no later than tomorrow.”

Recently ousted Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa was to take over as the country’s leader within 48 hours so that he can move “with speed to work for the country,” said a ruling party official, Lovemore Matuke. Mnangagwa, who fled the country after his Nov. 6 firing, “is not far from here,” Matuke added.

Mugabe’s resignation ended impeachment proceedings brought by the ruling ZANU-PF party after its Central Committee voted to oust him as party leader and replace him with Mnangagwa, a former justice and defense minister who served for decades as Mugabe’s enforcer. Many opposition supporters detest Mnangagwa and believe he was instrumental in the army killings of thousands of people when Mugabe moved against a political rival in the 1980s.

Mnangagwa has used inclusive language, saying in a statement before Mugabe’s resignation that all Zimbabweans should work together to advance their nation.

“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 said.

Zimbabwe’s military commander, Gen. Constantino Chiwenga, warned people not to target old adversaries following Mugabe’s resignation. “Acts of vengeful retribution or trying to settle scores will be dealt with severely,” he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Zimbabweans to maintain calm. The U.S. Embassy in Zimbabwe said Mugabe’s resignation “marks an historic moment” and that “the path forward” should lead to free and fair elections. British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson said Mugabe was “a despot who impoverished his country” and his exit is a “moment of joy” for Zimbabwe.

The end for Mugabe came when his wife, Grace Mugabe, positioned herself to succeed her husband, leading a party faction that engineered Mnangagwa’s ouster.

A look at Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s long rule

Africa has been riveted by the drama that led to longtime Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s resignation after 37 years in power. He had resisted growing calls to step down after the military put him under house arrest a week ago. Many across the continent have known no other leader of the once-prosperous southern African nation but the 93-year-old Mugabe, the world’s oldest head of state. Here is a look at his more than three decades in power.


1980: Mugabe named prime minister after independence elections

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

1987: Mugabe changes constitution and becomes president

1994: Mugabe receives honorary British knighthood

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

2005: United States calls Zimbabwe an “outpost of tyranny”

2008: Mugabe and opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirayi agree to share power after contested election; Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II annuls Mugabe’s honorary knighthood

2011: Prime Minister Tsvangirayi declares power-sharing a failure amid violence

2013: Mugabe wins seventh term; opposition alleges election fraud

2016: #ThisFlag protest movement emerges; independence war veterans turn on Mugabe, calling him “dictatorial”

2017: Mugabe begins campaigning for 2018 elections

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

Nov. 15: Army announces it has Mugabe and his wife in custody as military appears to take control

Nov. 18: Tens of thousands of Zimbabweans march against Mugabe

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

Nov. 21: Mugabe resigns shortly after Parliament begins impeachment proceedings.


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