Robert Mugabe has resigned as president of Zimbabwe with immediate effect after 37 years in power, the speaker of the country’s parliament has said.
Wild jubilation broke out among MPs when the speaker, Jacob Mudenda, made the announcement. A letter from Mr. Mugabe said that the decision was voluntary and that he had made it to allow a smooth transition of power.
The letter read: “My decision to resign is voluntary on my part and arises from my concern for the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe and my desire for a smooth, non-violent transfer of power.”
It comes as impeachment proceedings against Mugabe began earlier on Tuesday when Zanu-PF attempted to remove him from office. Thousands of people turned up outside parliament to urge on MPs, chanting, dancing and waving placards in Africa Unity square.
Ruling party chief whip Lovemore Matuke has speculated that fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa would take over as the country’s leader within 48 hours. Matuke said Mnangagwa, who fled the country after his firing by Robert Mugabe, “is not far from here”.
Currently in exile, Mnangagwa served for decades as Mugabe’s enforcer, with a reputation for being astute and ruthless, more feared than popular – nicknamed the “crocodile” with the full support of the Zimbabwean military.
“I will be returning as soon as the right conditions for security and stability prevail,” said Mnangagwa, who has a loyal support base in the military. “Never should the nation be held at ransom by one person ever again, whose desire is to die in office at whatever cost to the nation.”
Zimbabwe’s polarizing first lady, Grace Mugabe, had originally been positioning herself to succeed her husband, leading a party faction that engineered Mnangagwa’s ouster. The prospect of a dynastic succession alarmed the military, which confined Mugabe to his home last week and targeted what it called “criminals” around him who allegedly were looting state resources — a reference to associates of the first lady.
The military coup in everything but name has sparked heated interest among world states. Boris Johnson has speculated that Zimbabwe could now rejoin the commonwealth if the impeachment is successful. Others have claimed it is now time to focus upon the dictatorships of Uganda and Congo – Yoweri K Museveni and Joseph Kabila respectively.
But is it plain sailing ahead for Zimbabwe?
Mnangagawa has helped rig elections to keep Mugabe in power, and encouraged the destruction of white owned farms – destroying the country’s largest industry and descending it economic chaos.
This resulted in the printing of bills to pay its bills – and the hyper inflation as its aftermath. While Mugabe has been sidelined for now, the ruling party, Zanu PF, have as much to blame for Zimbabwe’s plight.
The danger is that the coup will replace one tyrant with another, since the ruling party has never played fair, and the opposition party is disorganised in being a real challenge for the Zanu PF.