President Robert Mugabe resigns, ending 37 year rule

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe has resigned, parliament speaker Jacob Mudenda has said. A letter from Mr Mugabe said the decision was voluntary and he had made it to allow a smooth transfer of power.

The surprise announcement halted an impeachment hearing that had begun against him and sparked wild celebrations on the nation’s streets.The ruling Zanu-PF party says former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa will succeed Mr Mugabe, who is in power since 1980.

Mr Mnangagwa’s sacking earlier this month triggered a political crisis.It had been seen by many as an attempt to clear the way for Grace Mugabe to succeed her husband as leader and riled the military leadership, who stepped in and put Mr Mugabe under house arrest.

After the resignation announcement, lawmakers roared in jubilation.Mr Mugabe, 93 was until his resignation the world’s oldest leader. He had previously refused to quit despite last week’s military takeover and days of protests.

According to the constitution his successor should be the current vice-president, Phelekezela Mphoko, a supporter of Grace Mugabe.

But Zanu-PF chief whip Lovemore Matuke told Reuters news agency that Mr Mnangagwa would be in office “within 48 hours”.

Speaking from an undisclosed location earlier on Tuesday, Mr Mnangagwa said he had fled abroad two weeks ago when he learned of a plot to kill him.

UK Prime Minister Theresa May said Mr Mugabe’s resignation “provides Zimbabwe with an opportunity to forge a new path free of the oppression that characterised by his rule”.

She said that former colonial power Britain, “as Zimbabwe’s oldest friend”, will do all it can to support free and fair elections and the rebuilding of the Zimbabwean economy.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said he hoped that Zimbabwe was on a “new trajectory” that would include free and fair elections. He said Mr Mugabe should be allowed to “go and rest for his last days”.

Robert Mugabe won elections during his 37 years in power, but over the past 15 years these were marred by violence against political opponents.

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