By JULIANA AGBO with Agency Report
Embattled President Robert Mugabe today resigned 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.
The 93-year-old had clung on for a week after an army takeover and expulsion from his own ruling ZANU-PF party, but resigned shortly after parliament began an impeachment process seen as the only legal way to force him out.
The resignation speech reads; “I Robert Gabriel Mugabe in terms of section 96 of the constitution of Zimbabwe hereby formally tender my resignation with immediate effect,” said speaker Mudenda, reading the letter.
The bombshell news was delivered to a special joint session of parliament.
Wild celebrations broke out at a joint sitting of parliament when Speaker Jacob Mudenda announced Mugabe’s resignation and suspended the impeachment procedure.
People danced and car horns blared on the streets of Harare at news that the era of Mugabe – who has led Zimbabwe since independence in 1980 – was finally over.
Some people held posters of Zimbabwean army chief General Constantino Chiwenga and former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose sacking this month triggered the military takeover that forced Mugabe to resign.
Mugabe is the only leader Zimbabwe has known since a guerrilla struggle ended white-minority rule in the former Rhodesia.
During his reign, he took the once-rich country to economic ruin and kept his grip on power through repression of opponents, although he styled himself as the Grand Man of African politics and kept the admiration of many people across Africa.
A former security chief known as The Crocodile, he was a key lieutenant to Mugabe for decades and stands accused of participating in repression against Zimbabweans who challenged the leader.
Reuters reported in September that Mnangagwa was plotting to succeed 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.
Meanwhile, the resignation letter written by Mugabe that was read out by the speaker of the country’s parliament made no mention of who he was leaving in charge of the country.
The speaker added that he was working on legal issues to make sure a new leader was in place by the end of Wednesday.