President Robert Mugabe and his wife Grace attend a rally of his ruling ZANU (PF) in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe, July 29, 2017. /REUTERS
Jubilant Zimbabweans celebrated late into the night after Robert Mugabe resigned as president.
He held power for 37 years and once said “only God” could remove him.
While still considered by some to be an African independence hero, his many critics see him as a despot who ruled by fear and brought a once-promising economy to near ruin.
His shock resignation came in the form of a letter read out by the speaker of parliament.
In it, Mugabe – who had so far resisted pressure from the public, the army and his own party to step aside – said he was resigning to allow a smooth and peaceful transfer of power, and that his decision was voluntary.
The announcement abruptly halted an impeachment hearing that had begun against him on Tuesday.
Lawmakers from the ruling party and opposition roared with glee, and spontaneous scenes of joy erupted in the streets with people dancing, singing, honking car horns and waving flags.
“I’m so happy, wonderful, feeling so much excited, this is the greatest moment for our country,” Julian Mtukudzi told the AFP news agency.
“We have been having sleepless nights hoping and waiting and we are so happy. It’s over and it’s done.”
Activist and political candidate Vimbaishe Musvaburi broke down in tears of joy speaking to the BBC.
“We are tired of this man, we are so glad he’s gone. We don’t want him anymore and yes, today, it’s victory,” she said.
The ruling Zanu-PF party says former Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa will succeed Mr Mugabe.
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.
Mugabe, 93, was until his resignation the world’s oldest leader.
According to the constitution his successor should be the current Vice-President, Phelekezela Mphoko, a supporter of Grace Mugabe.
But Zanu-PF legal secretary Patrick Chinamasa told Reuters news agency that Mr Mnangagwa would be sworn in on Wednesday or Thursday.