Official: Zimbabwe’s Mugabe Resigning After 37 Years
Protesters calling for the impeachment of President Robert Mugabe demonstrate outside the parliament building in downtown Harare, Zimbabwe Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe resigned as president Tuesday after 37 years in power, as parliament began impeachment proceedings against him.

“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,” said Mugabe in his letter which was read out in parliament, sparking cheers and dancing.

Cars began honking horns and people cheered in the streets, as the news spread like wildfire across the capital, Harare.

Mugabe’s resignation brought an end to the impeachment proceedings brought by the ruling ZANU-PF party after its Central Committee voted to oust the president as party leader and select recently fired Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa as his replacement, a move that eventually could lead to Mnangagwa becoming head of state. Currently in exile, Mnangagwa served for decades as Mugabe’s enforcer, with a reputation for being astute and ruthless, more feared than popular.
Official: Zimbabwe’s Mugabe Resigning After 37 Years
Protesters calling for the impeachment of President Robert Mugabe hold a placard of Zimbabwean Army General Constantino Chiwenga, left, as they demonstrate in front of the parliament building in downtown Harare, Zimbabwe Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
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Before the resignation, crowds rallied outside Parliament, dancing and singing. Some people placed photos of Mugabe in the street so that cars would run over them. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC party said the culture of the ruling party “must end” and everyone must put their heads together and work toward free and fair elections.

Earlier Tuesday, Mnangagwa said in a statement that Mugabe should acknowledge the nation’s “insatiable desire” for a leadership change and resign immediately.

Mnangagwa added to immense pressure on Mugabe to quit after nearly four decades in power, during which he evolved from a champion of the fight against white minority rule into a figure blamed for a collapsing economy, government dysfunction and human rights violations.

“The people of Zimbabwe have spoken with one voice and it is my appeal to President Mugabe that he should take heed of this clarion call and resign forthwith so that the country can move forward and preserve his legacy,” Mnangagwa said in his statement, after more than a week of silence.

Mnangagwa, who fled the country and has not appeared in public during the past week’s political turmoil, said Mugabe had invited him to return to Zimbabwe “for a discussion” on recent events. However, he said he will not return for now, alleging that there had been plans to kill him at the time of his firing.

Zimbabwe’s polarizing first lady, Grace Mugabe, had 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.

Mnangagwa was targeted by U.S. sanctions in the early 2000s for undermining democratic development in Zimbabwe, according to the Atlantic Council, a U.S.-based policy institute. However, J. Peter Pham, an Africa expert at the council, noted that some Zimbabwean opposition figures have appeared willing to have dialogue with Mnangagwa in order to move the country forward and that the international community should consider doing the same.

“We’re not saying whitewash the past, but it is in the interests of everyone that Zimbabwe is engaged at this critical time,” Pham said in a statement.

Regional leaders continued efforts to find a solution to the political turmoil, with South Africa’s state-run broadcaster reporting that the presidents of South Africa and Angola would travel to Zimbabwe on Wednesday to meet with “stakeholders” in the political crisis, including Mugabe and the military.

Impeachment proceedings began days after huge crowds surged through the capital, Harare, to demand that Mugabe quit. The ruling party had instructed government ministers to boycott a Cabinet meeting that Mugabe called for Tuesday morning at State House, the president’s official residence, and instead attend a meeting at party headquarters to work on the impeachment.

It was not clear how long the impeachment process could take. The ruling party has said Mugabe could be voted out as early as Wednesday but some analysts believe the impeachment process could take weeks and would, if conducted properly, allow Mugabe to make a case in his defense.

Mnangagwa called for unity and appeared to embrace the prospect of taking over power.

“I will not stand in the way of the people and my party,” he said.

Earlier coverage

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe defied calls to quit Sunday, saying he will preside over a ruling party congress in December in an announcement that could trigger impeachment proceedings this week and more protests demanding his ouster.

In a televised address, the 93-year-old Mugabe acknowledged what he said were “a whole range of concerns” of Zimbabweans about the chaotic state of the government and the economy, but he stopped short of what many people in the southern African nation were hoping for — a statement that he was resigning after nearly four decades in power.

The once-formidable Mugabe is now a virtually powerless, isolated figure, making his continued incumbency all the more unusual and extending Zimbabwe’s political limbo. He is largely confined to his private home by the military. The ruling party has fired him from his leadership post, and huge crowds poured into the streets of Harare, the capital, on Saturday to demand that he leave office.

Yet the president sought to project authority in his speech, which he delivered after shaking hands with security force commanders, one of whom leaned over a couple of times to help Mugabe find his place on the page he was reading.

The Central Committee of the ruling ZANU-PF party voted to dismiss Mugabe as party leader at a meeting earlier Sunday and said impeachment proceedings would begin if he does not resign by noon Monday. Mugabe made no reference to the party moves against him, instead saying he would play a leading role in a party congress planned for Dec. 12-17.

“The congress is due in a few weeks from now,” Mugabe said. “I will preside over its processes, which must not be prepossessed by any acts calculated to undermine it or compromise the outcomes in the eyes of the public.”

Mugabe has discussed his possible resignation on two occasions with military commanders after they effectively took over the country on Tuesday. The commanders were troubled by his firing of his longtime deputy and the positioning of unpopular first lady Grace Mugabe to succeed him. He referred to the military’s concerns about the state of Zimbabwe, where the economy has deteriorated amid factional battles within the ruling party.

“Whatever the pros and cons of the way they went about registering those concerns, I, as the president of Zimbabwe, as their commander in chief, do acknowledge the issues they have drawn my attention to, and do believe that these were raised in the spirit of honesty and out of deep and patriotic concern for the stability of our nation and for the welfare of our people,” Mugabe said.

The deputy whom Mugabe fired, former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, is positioned to become Zimbabwe’s next leader after the party committee made him its nominee to take over from Mugabe, who has ruled since independence from white minority rule in 1980.

Committee members stood, cheered and sang after Mugabe was removed from his post as party leader. Meeting chair Obert Mpofu referred to him as “outgoing president” and called it a “sad day” for Mugabe after his decades in power.

“He has been our leader for a long time, and we have all learned a great deal from him,” Mpofu said. But Mugabe, he said, “surrounded himself with a wicked cabal.”

The meeting replaced Mugabe as party chief with Mnangagwa and recalled the first lady as head of the women’s league, in decisions set to be ratified at the party congress next month. The committee accused the first lady of “preaching hate, divisiveness and assuming roles and powers not delegated to the office.”

Zimbabwean officials never revealed details of Mugabe’s talks with the military, but the military appeared to favor a voluntary resignation to maintain a veneer of legality in the political transition. Mugabe, in turn, has likely used whatever leverage he has left to try to preserve his legacy or even protect himself and his family from possible prosecution.

Hours before Mugabe spoke on television, Chris Mutsvangwa, head of the country’s liberation war veterans, said more protests could occur if the president does not step aside. He said he was concerned that the military could end up opening fire to protect Mugabe from protesters.

“We would expect that Mugabe would not have the prospect of the military shooting at people, trying to defend him,” Mutsvangwa said. “The choice is his.”

EARLIER REPORTING:

Official: Zimbabwe’s Mugabe Resigning After 37 Years

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe is resigning after nearly four decades in power, according to an official close to the talks on his departure, in an extraordinary end for the world’s oldest head of state who had vowed to rule until death.

The news came hours after the ruling party’s Central Committee on Sunday fired Mugabe as party leader and said if he didn’t resign as the country’s president by noon Monday it would start impeachment proceedings.

Mugabe was set to address the nation shortly on state-run television. The official close to the talks spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

The 93-year-old Mugabe has been under house arrest since the military moved in Tuesday, angered by his firing of his longtime deputy and the positioning of unpopular first lady Grace Mugabe to succeed him.

Mugabe tried to buy time in negotiations with the military on a dignified exit but quickly found himself isolated.

Tens of thousands of people poured into the streets of the capital Saturday to demand that Mugabe, one of Africa’s last remaining liberation leaders, step aside after overseeing the once-prosperous country’s economic collapse.

Official: Zimbabwe’s Mugabe Resigning After 37 Years
Zimbabweans sing and pray at a Christian peace and prayer rally in downtown Harare, Zimbabwe Sunday, Nov. 19, 2017. A day after huge crowds rallied peacefully in the capital for 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe to step down, Zimbabweans around the country attended Sunday church services and peace rallies, praying for the future of their country. Sign in Shona at right reads “It was Jesus who planned it”. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

The deputy whom Mugabe fired, former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, is poised to be Zimbabwe’s next leader after the Central Committee made him its nominee to take over when Mugabe goes.

Mugabe was speaking at the State House building where he holds official functions, a symbol of the rule of the man who took power after independence from white minority rule in 1980.

Clinging to his virtually powerless post, Mugabe earlier on Sunday discussed his exit with the army commander who put him under house arrest, in a second round of negotiations.

Meanwhile, members of the ZANU-PF party’s Central Committee stood, cheered and sang as Mugabe was recalled. Meeting chair Obert Mpofu referred to him as “outgoing president” and called it a “sad day” for Mugabe after his decades in power.

“He has been our leader for a long time and we have all learned a great deal from him,” Mpofu said. But Mugabe “surrounded himself with a wicked cabal” that brought him down.

The meeting replaced Mugabe as party chief with Mnangagwa and recalled the first lady as head of the women’s league. The Central Committee accused the first lady of “preaching hate, divisiveness and assuming roles and powers not delegated to the office.” The committee’s decisions will be formalized at a special party congress next month.

The Central Committee also expelled several high-level members close to the first lady, including minister of higher education Jonathan Moyo, finance minister Ignatious Chombo, Mugabe’s nephew Patrick Zhuwao, local government minister Saviour Kasukuwere, foreign affairs minister Walter Mzembi and several others.

Zimbabwean officials never revealed details of Mugabe’s talks with the military on his exit, but the military appeared to favor a voluntary resignation to maintain a veneer of legality in the political transition. Mugabe, in turn, likely was using whatever leverage he had left to try to preserve his legacy or even protect himself and his family from possible prosecution.

Chris Mutsvangwa, head of the country’s liberation war veterans, vowed to “bring back the crowd” if the president didn’t step aside but said he was concerned that the military would end up opening fire to protect Mugabe from protesters.

“We would expect that Mugabe would not have the prospect of the military shooting at people, trying to defend him,” Mutsvangwa said. “The choice is his.”

On Saturday, most of Harare’s population of 1.6 million poured into the streets in an anti-Mugabe demonstration that just days ago would have brought a police crackdown.

They clambered onto tanks moving slowly through the crowds, took selfies with soldiers and surged in the thousands toward the State House building.

The euphoria came after years of watching the once-prosperous African nation fall into decay, with a collapsing economy, repression of free speech, disputed elections and international sanctions.

Even as concerns remained about who next would be in charge, people reveled in the rare chance to express themselves freely.

Let us have this moment, Zimbabweans said. If the next leader becomes trouble, they vowed to return to the streets again.

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It is official. Zimbabwe’s Mugabe resigning after 37 years. It happened after the ruling party’s Central Committee on Sunday fired Mugabe as party leader.