Zimbabwe's Mugabe resigns, ending four decades of rule
HARARE – Reuters
Robert Mugabe resigned as Zimbabwe's president on Nov. 21, a week after the army and his former political allies moved to end four decades of rule by a man once feted as an independence hero who became feared as a despot.
His former vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose sacking this month prompted the military takeover that forced Mugabe out, will be sworn in as president on Nov. 22 or Nov. 23, Patrick Chinamasa, legal secretary of the ruling ZANU-PF party, told Reuters.
The 93-year-old Mugabe had clung on for a week after an army takeover, with ZANU-PF urging him to go. He finally resigned moments after parliament began an impeachment process seen as the only legal way to force him out.
Wild celebrations broke out at a joint sitting of parliament when Speaker Jacob Mudenda read out Mugabe's brief resignation letter. Mugabe, confined to his Harare residence, did not appear.
People danced in the streets of Harare and car horns blared at the news that the era of Mugabe -- who had led Zimbabwe since independence in 1980 -- was finally over. Some brandished posters of Mnangagwa and army chief General Constantino Chiwenga.
Workers turned the Christmas lights on early in Africa Unity Square and people climbed aboard armoured vehicles to pose for photographs with soldiers.
Despite the public outpouring of joy, Mugabe's downfall was as much the result of in-fighting among the political elite as a popular uprising, although thousands of people rallied against him in the days after the army intervened last week.
The army seized power after Mugabe sacked Mnangagwa, ZANU-PF's favourite to succeed him, in a bid 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.
Since the crisis began, Mugabe has been mainly confined to his "Blue Roof" mansion in the capital where Grace is also believed to be.
ZANU-PF chief whip Lovemore Matuke told Reuters that Mnangagwa would be sworn in within 48 hours and serve the remainder of Mugabe's term until the next election, which must be held by September 2018.
"I am very happy with what has happened," said Maria Sabawu, a supporter of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), outside the hotel where the impeachment process was happening.
"I have suffered a lot at the hands of Mugabe's government," she said, showing her hand with a missing finger that she said was lost in violence during a presidential run-off election between Mugabe and opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai in 2008.
Mugabe had led Zimbabwe since a guerrilla struggle ended white-minority rule in the country formerly known as Rhodesia.
He took the once-rich nation to economic ruin, presiding over the forced takeover of white-owned farms at the end of the century, which devastated agricultural foreign exchange earnings and led to hyperinflation.
But brandishing his anti-colonial credentials and styling himself the Grand Old Man of African politics, Mugabe retained the admiration of many people across the continent.
Amnesty International said that under Mugabe tens of thousands of people were tortured, forcibly disappeared or killed in a culture of impunity that allowed "grotesque crimes to thrive."
"The people of Zimbabwe deserve better. The next generation of leaders must commit itself to upholding the constitution, living up to Zimbabwe's international human rights obligations and treating its people with dignity and justice," the rights group said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the United States said on Nov. 21 that President Robert Mugabe's resignation offers Zimbabwe's people a "historic opportunity" for change and could help end its isolation on the world stage.
"With the resignation of Robert Mugabe, today marks a historic moment for Zimbabwe," U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said.
"We congratulate all Zimbabweans who raised their voices and stated peacefully and clearly that the time for change was overdue," he said.