Robert Mugabe resigned as Zimbabwe’s president on Tuesday, shortly after parliament began an impeachment process to end his nearly four decades of rule.
The 93-year old clung on for a week after an army takeover and expulsion from his own ruling ZANU-PF party, which also told him to leave power.
Wild celebrations broke out at a joint sitting of parliament when House of Assembly speaker Jacob Mudenda announced Mugabe’s resignation and suspended the impeachment procedure.
“We have fought the lion and won,” Lovemore Matuke, Zanu-PF’s chief whip, said in an interview after the announcement.
Emmerson Mnangagwa, 75, who Mugabe dismissed as vice president this month, will take over as interim leader and be Zanu-PF’s presidential candidate in elections next year, the party said.
The ruling party’s decision to dump the president came four days after the military placed him under house arrest and detained several of his closest allies — a move triggered by Mnangagwa’s dismissal.
Mugabe initially dug in his heels, missing a party deadline to quit by noon on Monday or face impeachment, before finally agreeing to go.
Mugabe leaves behind an economy in tatters. An estimated 95 percent of the workforce is unemployed, public infrastructure is crumbling and there are widespread shortages of cash and food. Many of the country’s woes are rooted in Mugabe’s support for the seizure of white-owned farms, which slashed agricultural production, export earnings and tax revenue.
The son of a carpenter and a catechism teacher, Mugabe was born in Zvimba, a peasant-farming area west of Harare, and trained as a primary-school teacher. He was introduced to politics while studying at South Africa’s Fort Hare University, and went on to help found the Zimbabwe African National Union party in 1963. He was jailed the same year for calling for the violent overthrow of Ian Smith’s white-minority government.
During his 11-year incarceration, Mugabe obtained degrees in economics, education and law. A year after his release, he fled to Mozambique where he later became the leader of the then exiled Zanu, which controlled the biggest of two guerrilla armies fighting Rhodesia.
A U.K.-brokered peace deal that ended the war brought Mugabe to power as the elected prime minister in 1980. While he initially preached reconciliation, violence erupted in 1982 when Mugabe accused his coalition partner, Joshua Nkomo, of plotting to overthrow him. He began a military crackdown that claimed about 20,000 lives in the western region of Matabeleland, according to Genocidewatch.org.