Zimbabwe’s Parliament Speaker Jacob Mudenda announced Tuesday that President Robert Mugabe has resigned, a much-anticipated development that brings the leader’s 37-year dictatorial rule to an abrupt end.
The announcement came after Zimbabwe’s ruling party, ZANU-PF, on Sunday fired Mugabe as the party chief, ousted his wife First Lady Grace Mugabe, and gave the president an ultimatum: resign by Monday or face impeachment. Mugabe had refused to resign, delivering a bewildering speech on Zimbabwean television Sunday, in which he called on the nation to end its “bitterness” and “vengefulness.” He ultimately missed the Monday deadline to resign and lawmakers promptly began proceedings to impeach him.
Parliamentarians debated the 93-year-old ruler’s tenure Tuesday, criticizing him for his reputation on corruption, economic instability, and threats to rule of law. During the proceedings, delegates began shouting “Mugabe must go!” News of the President’s possible resignation was welcomed by hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans on Sunday, who poured into the streets cheering, singing, and dancing.
The political infighting that led to his resignation started earlier this month when Mugabe fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and sought to replace him with the First Lady. The firing of Mnangagwa led the military to take over the government last week, zeroing in on the president’s inner circle to weed out corruption and criminals. The President and First Lady were ultimately placed under house arrest. When the ZANU-PF’s Central Committee voted to dismiss Mugabe as party chief, delegates erupted in cheers in a rare show of opposition on Sunday.
Mugabe has been the country’s sole ruler since its independence nearly four decades ago. His authoritarian tenure has resulted in crippling economic problems, corruption, poor human rights, and widespread repression.
Before Mugabe announced his resignation, war veterans leader Chris Mutsvangwa, who has led a months-long effort to remove the President, said that if Mugabe did not resign, “we will bring back the crowds and they will do their business,” Reuters reported. It is expected that Mutsvangwa will head the interim government until the next elections in 2018.