Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe resigned as president Tuesday after 37 years in power, as parliament began impeachment proceedings against him.
“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,” said Mugabe in his 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 the age of 93, said that proper procedures should be followed to install new leadership.
Mugabe’s resignation brought an abrupt end the 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.
Sacked Vice President 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.”