|Robert Mugabe led Zimbabwe for 37 years [File: Charles Platiau/Reuters]|
Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has submitted his resignation after nearly four decades as the country’s leader.
Mugabe defied demands to step down for almost a week after a military takeover and expulsion from his own ruling ZANU-PF party but stepped down on Tuesday, hours after parliament started an impeachment process.
Cheers broke out in the parliament after speaker Jacob Mudenda read out Mugabe’s resignation letter.
“I Robert Gabriel Mugabe in terms of section 96 of the constitution of Zimbabwe hereby formally tender my resignation … with immediate effect,” said Mudenda, reading the letter.
The news also sparked scenes of jubilation in the capital, Harare, as people cheered, danced and blared horns to celebrate Mugabe’s departure.
“People are coming out onto the streets, they are calling this day Independence Day,” Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa, reporting from Harare, said.
“It’s getting chaotic,” she added. “Some people still can’t believe this has happened. People say they are really excited and hoping for a better future.”
At Harare’s Rainbow Towers, crowds cheered as a picture of Mugabe – hung in most public business premises – was taken down.
Celebrations also erupted in central Johannesburg, in neighbouring South Africa, as Zimbabweans there also took to the street to cheer on the news.
Mugabe’s resignation terminated the impeachment proceedings initiated by ZANU-PF after its Central Committee voted to dismiss him as party leader.
The letter read at parliament did not specify who will succeed Mugabe. The most likely successor is ex-Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose sacking on November 6 triggered the turmoil.
Mugabe, 93, led Zimbabwe’s fight for independence in the 1970s.
He came to power in 1980 and his 37-year rule was criticised for repression of dissent, election rigging, and for causing the country’s economic collapse.
“Any person who is going to rule Zimbabwe now will have learned a lesson and will not repeat the same things,” Anthony Mutambirwa, a Harare resident, told Al Jazeera after news of Mugabe’s resignation spread.
Mugabe’s resignation letter capped the end of a historic week which saw the military seizing power and tens of thousands of people taking to the streets to demand he stepped down.
|Zimbabweans celebrate outside the parliament building in Harare [Ben Curtis/The Associated Press]|
The surprise military takeover on November 15 was triggered by Mugabe’s decision to sack, who had been First Lady Grace Mugabe’s main opponent to succeed the veteran leader.
The rise and fall of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe
In a rare sign of solidarity between the people and the army, which has often been a pillar of support for Mugabe’s near 40-year rule, tens of thousands of Zimbabweans on Saturday took to the streets to express support for the military’s operation.
WATCH VIDEO: Celebrations in Zimbabwe after Robert Mugabe resigns
“Over the years, the army has been accused of being implicit with Mugabe,” said Al Jazeera’s Mutasa.
“People wanted Mugabe to go, so the only way to do this was to work with the military.”
Victor Chifodya, a former Harare councillor, said he was “overjoyed at the news”.
“Mugabe was a very divisive man but now people from all political parties have come together to make him resign,” he told Al Jazeera.
“I’m so glad – now we can start a new Zimbabwe,” added Chifodya.