Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe steps down after 37 years as president

HARARE – Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has resigned as president of Zimbabwe with immediate effect after 37 years in power, parliament speaker Jacob Mudenda has said.

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 did not mention who would take over from the 93-year-old president.

The constitution says it should be the current vice-president, Phelekezela Mphoko, a supporter of Grace Mugabe, Mugabe’s wife.

The move caps an astonishing eight-day crisis that started when the military took over last week in order to block the rise to power of Grace Mugabe and her faction within the ruling Zanu-PF party, and then developed into a popular revolt against the ageing autocrat.

The surprise announcement halted an impeachment hearing that had begun against him.

Military takeover

Mugabe had previously refused to resign despite last week’s military takeover and days of protests.

Robert Mugabe has been in power since independence in 1980. He has won elections, but over the past 15 years these have been marred by violence against political opponents.

He has presided over a deepening economic crisis in Zimbabwe, where people are on average 15% poorer now than they were in 1980.

Jubilation in Harare

Wild jubilation broke out among MPs when the speaker, Jacob Mudenda, made the announcement, and cheers and celebrations spread through the streets of Harare.

Thousands of Zimbabweans had turned up outside parliament to urge on MPs, chanting, dancing and waving placards in Africa Unity square.

The way is now clear for Emmerson Mnangagwa, the vice-president fired by Mugabe 13 days ago, to take power. He was appointed interim leader of the Zanu-PF at the meeting on Sunday.