Mugabe resigns, ruthless reign of 37 years comes to end
A letter from Mugabe said that the decision was voluntary and that he had made it to allow a smooth transfer of power. He has been in power since independence in 1980.
HARARE: Robert Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, resigned as president on Tuesday shortly after lawmakers began impeachment proceedings against him, according to the speaker of Parliament.
The speaker of Parliament read out a letter in which Mugabe said he was stepping down "with immediate effect" for "the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe and the need for a peaceful transfer of power."
Although Parliament erupted into cheers, some observers were cautious, as Mugabe had refused to step down despite demands from his former political party, ZANU-PF, which expelled him on Sunday.
Earlier on Tuesday, members of the governing party introduced a motion of impeachment, invoking a constitutional process that has never before been tested and that could prolong the country's political and economic uncertainty.
The party's historic political rival, the Movement for Democratic Change, seconded the motion, a striking sign of the consensus in the political class that Mugabe must go — a consensus that formed with astonishing speed after the military took Mugabe into custody last Wednesday, signaling an end to his 37-year rule. The next step was for Parliament to form a committee to investigate the motion's allegations that Mugabe violated the Constitution; that he allowed his wife, Grace, to usurp power; and that, at 93, he is too old to fulfill his duties. Debate on the motion had bgeun when the speaker suddenly interrurpted the proceedings to read a letter of resignation delivered by Mugabe's representatives.
ZANU-PF expelled Mugabe as its leader on Sunday, but Mugabe stunned the nation that evening with a televised address in which he refused to step down. Pressure from within the country and from abroad has been building on Mugabe to resign, but observers said on Tuesday that the country might have to brace itself for lengthy impeachment proceedings.
Greg Linington, a constitutional law expert at the University of Zimbabwe, said that the Constitution did not stipulate a time frame for impeachment, and that a thorough process could take weeks or months. Mugabe should be given the right to reply and time to prepare, Linington said.
"It's important to get this right," he said. "Suppose they don't do it properly and later on Mugabe brings a court application challenging the way the procedure was done."
According to Zimbabwe's Constitution, a president can be removed for serious misconduct, violating the Constitution or "inability to perform the functions of the office because of physical or mental incapacity." Committees must investigate and present evidence. Finally, Parliament can remove the president with a two-thirds vote in each of the two legislative chambers.