Nov. 21 (UPI) — After days of political suspense, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe resigned on Tuesday shortly after lawmakers began impeachment proceedings against him.
In a statement to parliament, Mugabe said the decision to leave was voluntary and that he resigned to facilitate a smooth transition of power.
The leader clung to power after he was removed last week by the military and placed under house arrest. His own party, Zanu-PF, expelled him from his leadership post.
Celebrations broke out at a joint sitting of parliament when it was announced that Mugabe would be resigning as president, thus ending the need for impeachment proceedings.
The move makes the path clear for former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, whom the ruling Zanu-PF party chose to replace Mugabe, to become president.
Despite its takeover last week, the military said it has no intention of keeping power and plans to allow Mnangagwa to command the armed forces.
Earlier Tuesday, impeachment proceedings began for Mugabe, who ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years as its only president.
The House speaker announced that a motion to remove the 93-year-old president was brought forward by war veterans leader Chris Mutsvangwa — who was instrumental in organizing the “bloodless coup” against the president last week, the Independent reported.
The motion would have accused Mugabe of allowing his wife, Grace Mugabe, “to usurp constitutional power” and would have accused the president of being too old and incapable to follow through with his presidential duties.
A draft impeachment motion also said Mugabe was a “source of instability” for the country.
Thousands of Zimbabweans attended a rally in Harare in support of the motion, with many supporting the end of Mugabe’s reign. It followed a demonstration Saturday, in which several thousand people called for the leader to step down.
“We are here because we want to be part of this very important occasion in the history of this country,” resident Samuel Wadzai said Tuesday.
World leaders, including President Ian Khama of Botswana, urged Mugabe — who was considered to be a dictator by many — to step down before impeachment proceedings started, saying Zimbabweans have been through “untold suffering” under Mugabe’s reign.
Khama asked Mugabe to “be sensitive to the wishes of the people of Zimbabwe and to do the honorable thing by voluntarily relinquishing power.”