Robert Mugabe resigns as Zimbabwe's president

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has submitted his resignation after nearly four decades as the country’s leader.

Mugabe defied demands to step down for almost a week after a military takeover and expulsion from his own ruling ZANU-PF party but stepped down on Tuesday, hours after parliament started an impeachment process.

Cheers broke out in the parliament after speaker Jacob Mudenda read out Mugabe’s resignation letter.

“I Robert Gabriel Mugabe in terms of section 96 of the constitution of Zimbabwe hereby formally tender my resignation … with immediate effect,” said Mudenda, reading the letter.

Harare residents celebrate after Mugabe’s resignation [Mike Hutchings/Reuters]

The news also sparked scenes of jubilation in the capital, Harare, as large crowds cheered, danced and sang for hours celebrating Mugabe’s departure.

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“People are coming out onto the streets, they are calling this day Independence Day,” Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa, reporting from Harare, said. 

“It’s getting chaotic,” she added. “Some people still can’t believe this has happened. People say they are really excited and hoping for a better future.”

At Harare’s Rainbow Towers, crowds cheered as a picture of Mugabe – hung in most public business premises – was taken down.

Celebrations also erupted in central Johannesburg, in neighbouring South Africa, as Zimbabweans there also took to the streets to cheer on the news.

Mugabe’s resignation brought an end to the impeachment process initiated by ZANU-PF after its Central Committee voted to dismiss him as party leader.

New era

Mugabe, 93, led Zimbabwe’s fight for independence in the 1970s.

He came to power in 1980 and his 37-year rule was criticised for repression of dissent, election rigging, and for causing the country’s economic collapse.

“Ever since I was born, I have never thought that I would see this day,” Anthony Mutambirwa, a Harare resident, told Al Jazeera as news of Mugabe’s resignation spread.

“I’m so glad. For 37 years, we have been suffering.”

Mugabe’s departure capped a historic week which saw the military seizing power, intervening in party politics over his succession.

Even though Mugabe’s resignation letter did not specify who will succeed him, the most likely successor is ousted Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Mnangagwa is expected to become, within the next 48 hours, Zimbabwe’s interim leader ahead of elections scheduled for next year.

Mudenda, the speaker, said parliament would now ensure the “proper legal processes are put in 
place so that the country can proceed forward” and elect a new president.

Zimbabweans celebrate outside the parliament building in Harare [Ben Curtis/The Associated Press]

The surprise military takeover on November 15 was triggered by Mugabe’s decision to sack Mnangagwa, who had been First Lady Grace Mugabe’s main opponent to succeed the veteran leader.

The rise and fall of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe

In a rare sign of solidarity between the people and the army, which has often been a pillar of support for Mugabe’s near 40-year rule, tens of thousands of Zimbabweans on Saturday took to the streets to express support for the military’s operation.

“Over the years, the army has been accused of being implicit with Mugabe,” said Al Jazeera’s Mutasa.

“People wanted Mugabe to go, so the only way to do this was to work with the military.”

Victor Chifodya, a former Harare councillor, said he was “overjoyed at the news”.

“Mugabe was a very divisive man but now people from all political parties have come together to make him resign,” he told Al Jazeera.

“I’m so glad – now we can start a new Zimbabwe,” added Chifodya.

With reporting from Tendai Marima in Harare. Follow her on Twitter: @i_amten

Soldiers and civilias pose for pictures outside the ZANU-PF headquarters [Tendai Marima/Al Jazeera] [Al Jazeera]
Victor Chifodya, with his friend Justin Mwanambu, dance in celebration [Tendai Marima/Al Jazeera] 
Cheering crowds outside the Rainbow Towers hotel in Harare  Tendai Marima/Al Jazeera [Al Jazeera]