HARARE • Car horns blared and cheering crowds waved the national flag as they thronged the streets of Zimbabwe's capital Harare on Tuesday after news broke that President Robert Mugabe had resigned after 37 years in power.
The announcement came after days of mounting pressure on the 93-year-old leader, whose long and authoritarian rule made him feared by many of his citizens.
"We are just so happy that things are finally going to change," hairdresser Togo Ndhlalambi, 32, told Agence France-Presse. "We woke up every morning waiting for this day. This country has been through tough times."
After a week of political turmoil, Zimbabweans reacted with shock, disbelief and delight.
"I am so happy that Mugabe is gone, 37 years under a dictatorship is not a joke," said 18-year-old Tinashe Chakanetsa.
"I am hoping for a new Zimbabwe ruled by the people and not by one person. We need leaders who are selected by the people, and not rulers. I am looking forward to get a job after our economy recovers."
Massive crowds gathered within minutes of the surprise announcement made to a meeting of parliamentary lawmakers discussing a motion to impeach Mr Mugabe.
At the Rainbow Towers conference centre, where the MPs were gathered, a framed portrait of the president was ripped from the wall, torn apart and stomped to pieces by a cheering crowd.
"It is shocking, that guy (was) powerful, very powerful," said barber Wright Chirombe, who joined the euphoric street celebrations.
Across the city, men danced, women sang and many were in tears, brandishing national flags and often praising General Constantino Chiwenga - the man who led the army takeover that finally triggered the crisis which overthrew the ageing president.
"We were reduced to worthless people under Mugabe," said Mr Yeukai Magwari, 33, a vendor dancing with uniformed maids in the Avondale neighbourhood.
"From now on, we don't want to see our elderly men and women sleeping in queues outside banks, and people reduced to being destitute after going to college," he said.
Mr Tendai Chaitezvi, 29, a bank employee, celebrated with friends at the Fiesta bar in the Avenues district as music was blasted from several car stereos.
"The situation in the country under this man was rough," he said. "A lot of our friends went abroad in search of jobs and were wondering how we managed to survive back here. There is suddenly a sense of optimism now. Today is the start of hoping that things will get back to normal."