- Â AU, UK, US welcome resignation
Okechukwu Uwaezuoke with agency reports
Shortly after the Zimbabwean parliament began an impeachment process to end Robert Mugabeâ€™s 37-year rule in the country that he fought to liberate from colonial rule, the embattled president finally threw in the towel Tuesday, paving the way for his former deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa to be sworn in as the countryâ€™s new president.
Immediately the Speaker of the parliament Jacob Mudenda announced Mugabeâ€™s resignation, wild celebrations broke out at the joint sitting of parliament and suspended the impeachment process, reported Reuters.
There were also wild celebrations in the streets of Harare, as cars honked their horns and people danced and cheered the exit of the 93-year-old ruler.
Mugabeâ€™s resignation, which was with immediate effect, ended his 37-year-old grip on power.
Mugabe, who had clung on for a week after the military intervention last Wednesday and his expulsion from his own ruling party ZANU-PF, had in a letter he submitted to parliament said his decision to resign was voluntary.
â€œMy decision to resign is voluntary on my part,â€ the letter quoted by AFP read. â€œIt arises from my concern for the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe and my desire to ensure a smooth, peaceful and non-violent transfer of power that underpins national security, peace and stability.â€
The Speaker had earlier said that a motion to impeach Mugabe was before him and that lawmakers would adjourn to a hotel to begin the proceedings Tuesday.
Mugabe, who until Tuesday morning was still defiant, had held his weekly cabinet meeting with only five ministers and the attorney general in attendance while 17 others had opted to attend a meeting to plan the impeachment.
The ruling party had in a draft impeachment motion, called Mugabe a â€œsource of instabilityâ€, accusing him of flouting the rule of law and presiding over an â€œunprecedented economic tailspinâ€ in the last 15 years.
It also said he had abrogated his constitutional mandate to his hot-headed and unpopular 52-year-old wife, Grace, whose tilt at power triggered the backlash from the army that saw it put out tanks on the streets of the capital last week.
Shortly before that, his former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa has urged him to resign immediately.
This was as thousands of demonstrators turned up outside the parliament building to egg on the lawmakers, chanting, dancing and waving placards.
Mnangagwa, whose sacking led to last weekâ€™s army takeover, fled the southern African country two weeks ago after being purged from the ruling party, said he feared a threat to his life and vowed not to return until his security was guaranteed.
Mugabe had since the beginning of the crisis been holed up in his deluxe â€œBlue Roofâ€ mansion in Harare with his wife and members of his family and was only been seen twice in public.
The man, who led Zimbabweâ€™s liberation war and was hailed as one of Africaâ€™s post-colonial heroes, saw his popularity plummet as the economy crumbled and opposition to his rule grew in the late 1990s.
He tightened his grip around the southern African country, seized white-owned farms, unleashed security forces to crush dissent and spoke of ruling until he was 100.
South African President Jacob Zuma and his Angolan counterpart Joao Lourenco were due to travel Wednesday to Zimbabwe to ratchet up the diplomatic pressure, according to South Africaâ€™s state broadcaster.
With Mugabeâ€™s resignation, Lovemore Matuke, ZANU-PF chief whip, told Reuters that Mnangagwa would be sworn in within 48 hours.
He added that Mnangagwa would serve the remainder of Mugabeâ€™s term until the next general election in September 2018.
In its reaction to the turn of events in Zimbabwe, the African Union (AU) welcomed the resignation of Mugabe as the countryâ€™s president.
President Alpha Conde of Guinea and current chairperson of the AU, hailed Mugabe as a â€œgreat fighterâ€ who should have left office a while back.
â€œIt is a shame that he is leaving through the back door and that he is forsaken by the parliament,â€ Conde said, according to the BBC.
He added that the presidential election in Zimbabwe should be held in 2018 and that the African Union will offer all its support to the country.
British Prime Minister Theresa May said Mugabeâ€™s resignation would give Zimbabwe â€œan opportunity to forge a new path free of the oppression that characterised his ruleâ€.
â€œIn recent days we have seen the desire of the Zimbabwean people for free and fair elections and the opportunity to rebuild the countryâ€™s economy under a legitimate government,â€ AFP quoted her as saying in a statement.
â€œAs Zimbabweâ€™s oldest friend, we will do all we can to support this, working with our international and regional partners to help the country achieve the brighter future it so deserves.â€
Also, a statement from the US Embassy in Zimbabwe, said Mugabeâ€™s resignation â€œmarks an historic momentâ€ for the country and congratulated all Zimbabweans who raised their voices, according to ABC News.
The statement also said that â€œwhatever short-term arrangements the government may establish, the path forward must lead to free, fair and inclusive electionsâ€, urging â€œunwavering respect for the rule of law.â€
Mugabeâ€™s sudden exit from power was triggered by the rivalry between members of his ruling partyâ€™s elite over who will succeed him, rather than popular protests against his rule.
Mugabeâ€™s sacking of Mnangagwa as vice-president this month apparently to pave the way for his wife to succeed him in office led to the militaryâ€™s intervention last week. Apparently, Mnangagwa was plotting to succeed Mugabe with the backing of the military.
According to Reuters, the plot hoped to install an interim unity government backed by the blessing of the international community to allow for Zimbabwe to usher in a â€œnew eraâ€.
The former vice-president, who until he fell out of favour, was Mugabeâ€™s key lieutenant for decades and stands accused of being complicit in repression against Zimbabweans who challenged the leader.