Zimbabweans celebrate as Mugabe resigns

Robert Mugabe resigns as Zimbabwe's president a week after the army and his former political allies moved against him, ending four decades of rule by a man who turned from independence hero to archetypal African strongman.
Protesters against Mr Robert Mugabe outside Parliament in Harare yesterday. Wild celebrations broke out at a joint sitting of Parliament when Speaker Jacob Mudenda announced Mr Mugabe's resignation and suspended the impeachment procedure. Protesters
Protesters against Mr Robert Mugabe outside Parliament in Harare yesterday. Wild celebrations broke out at a joint sitting of Parliament when Speaker Jacob Mudenda announced Mr Mugabe's resignation and suspended the impeachment procedure. PHOTO: REUTERS
Protesters against Mr Robert Mugabe outside Parliament in Harare yesterday. Wild celebrations broke out at a joint sitting of Parliament when Speaker Jacob Mudenda announced Mr Mugabe's resignation and suspended the impeachment procedure. Protesters
Protesters waiting before a hearing to discuss an impeachment motion against Mr Mugabe, who later resigned.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

House Speaker says legal issues being ironed out to ensure new leader in place by today

HARARE • Mr Robert Mugabe resigned as Zimbabwe's President yesterday, shortly after Parliament began an impeachment process to end his nearly four decades of rule.

The 93-year-old clung on for a week after an army takeover and expulsion from his own ruling Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) party, which also told him to leave power.

Wild celebrations broke out at a joint sitting of Parliament when Speaker Jacob Mudenda announced Mr Mugabe's resignation and suspended the impeachment procedure.

"I, Robert Gabriel Mugabe in terms of Section 96 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, hereby formally tender my resignation... with immediate effect," said Mr Mudenda, reading out the letter.

Mr Mugabe's resignation was the climax of a power struggle in the ruling Zanu-PF party over who will succeed him, rather than popular protests against his rule.

The army seized power after Mr Mugabe sacked Zanu-PF's favourite to succeed him, Mr Emmerson Mnangagwa, to smooth a path to the presidency for his wife Grace, 52, known to her critics as "Gucci Grace" for her reputed fondness for luxury shopping.

Mr Mnangagwa, who is known as "The Crocodile" and is one of the pillars of the security establishment that has helped keep Mr Mugabe in power since white-minority rule ended in 1980, is now expected to take over as president.

Mr Mugabe's resignation was the climax of a power struggle in the ruling Zanu-PF party over who will succeed him, rather than popular protests against his rule.

Reports in September said that Mr Mnangagwa was plotting to succeed Mr Mugabe, with army backing, at the helm of a broad coalition.

The plot posited an interim unity government with international blessing to allow for Zimbabwe's re-engagement with the world, after decades of isolation from global lenders and donors.

However, Mr Mugabe's resignation letter did not indicate who would succeed him.

  • TIMELINE OF ZIMBABWE POLITICAL CRISIS

  • Nov 6: President Robert Mugabe fires Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, paving the way for his wife, Mrs Grace Mugabe, to be his successor. The move angers the military, which has close ties to Mr Mnangagwa.

    Nov 14: Tanks move towards Harare, with gunfire heard around Mr Mugabe's residence a day after army chief General Constantino Chiwenga issues a warning. By the next day, the military has seized control, though it denies staging a coup.

    Nov 15: South Africa says Mr Mugabe has told its President, Mr Jacob Zuma, that he is under house arrest, but is fine.

    Nov 16: Mr Mugabe refuses to step down during talks with generals, which some Zimbabweans see as a bid to buy time to negotiate a favourable exit. Meanwhile, opposition gathers pace within his party, with eight out of 10 branches of the ruling Zanu-PF demanding that he step down.

    Nov 18: Tens of thousands of people stage joyful demonstrations across the country to demand Mr Mugabe's departure and celebrate his apparently imminent demise.

    Nov 19: The Zanu-PF sacks Mr Mugabe as leader and demands that he resign as head of state. It also expels his wife Grace and names Mr Mnangagwa as new party chief. It threatens to impeach Mr Mugabe if he does not resign by midday on Monday. Mr Mugabe meets the army chiefs before making a defiant televised address, in which he shows no sign of leaving.

    Nov 21: After the Zanu-PF deadline passes without Mr Mugabe resigning, the party says it would commence impeachment proceedings the next day.

    Nov 22: Impeachment proceedings begin, and Mr Mugabe resigns shortly after.

    AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Mr Mudenda said that legal issues were being ironed out to ensure that a new leader was in place by the end of today.

Thousands of people had gathered in Unity Square in central Harare, just outside Parliament in the capital, to celebrate in what they dubbed an "impeachment party".

After news of Mr Mugabe's resignation became public, even more ecstatic people poured into the streets, carrying placards of Mr Mnangagwa and army chief Constantino Chiwenga, who initiated the military takeover of the country. Car horns blared and people were seen dancing for joy.

Mr Mnangagwa, who said he fled Zimbabwe after his dismissal because of threats to him and his family, plans to return "as soon as the right conditions for security and stability prevail", he said yesterday in a statement. He confirmed that Mr Mugabe had contacted him, and had urged him to resign "so the country can move forward and preserve his legacy".

Earlier in the day, a motion was moved and seconded in Parliament to impeach Mr Mugabe.

Mr Mudenda said Parliament would adjourn to a hotel to start the impeachment proceedings at 4.30pm local time against Mr Mugabe, who had defied his party's deadline of Monday noon to resign.

Zimbabwean law says a joint sitting can take place anywhere.

The Zanu-PF party had said it would work with the opposition to ensure it had the votes in Parliament to oust Mr Mugabe.

The Movement for Democratic Change, the main opposition, also indicated it would support the impeachment proposal.

Mr Mugabe led Zimbabwe's liberation war and is hailed as one of Africa's founding fathers and a staunch supporter of the drive to free neighbouring South Africa from apartheid in 1994. But many say he has damaged Zimbabwe's economy, democracy and judiciary by staying in power for too long and has used violence to crush perceived political opponents.

Since the crisis began, Mr Mugabe has been mainly confined to his "Blue Roof" mansion in the capital, where his wife is also believed to be.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 22, 2017, with the headline 'Zimbabweans celebrate as Mugabe resigns'. Print Edition | Subscribe