Robert Mugabe resigns after 37 years as Zimbabwe parliament begins impeachment proceedings

People gather outside Harare's airport to welcome former Zimbabwean vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa

He has called for the weekly cabinet meeting on Tuesday, which would be the first time ministers meet him since last week's military takeover dubbed "Operation Restore Legacy". "I feel like we've been liberated a second time".

Mnangagwa was named as ZANU-PF's new party chief on Sunday, paving the way for him to contest the 2018 presidential elections.

His wife, Grace Mugabe, is unexpectedly named head of Zanu-PF's Women's League.

Although many expected Mr Mugabe to announce his resignation on Sunday evening in his televised statement, it has now been reported that Zanu-PF decided he would not step down in front of the military generals and instead his speech was created to show the military intervention was not a coup.

"It might take days and weeks, but Mugabe is on his way out", said Charles Muramba, a 46-year-old bus driver in Harare. The country was once called the "breadbasket" of the region, but under Mugabe's rule, Zimbabwe's economy has declined sharply, in large part due to corruption and government mismanagement.

Zimbabwe's polarising first lady, Grace Mugabe, had been positioning herself to succeed her husband, leading a party faction that engineered Mr Mnangagwa's removal.

Until he resigned on Tuesday, Mugabe had successfully fended off numerous challengers to keep himself in charge of his party and the country.

The announcement came minutes into a joint session of the Zimbabwean Parliament in Harare, convened to prise the 93-year-old from power, CNN reported.

"Mugabe go home": Protesters gathered outside the Houses of Parliament, calling for Mugabe to quit, holding signs reading "Bob resign now" and "Mugabe go home".

Robert Mugabe resigns after 37 years as Zimbabwe parliament begins impeachment proceedings
Robert Mugabe resigns after 37 years as Zimbabwe parliament begins impeachment proceedings

There has been no confirmation of the letter from the president or his office - but no denial, either. This allows for a simple majority of the Senate and National Assembly to set up a cross-party committee to investigate the president's removal on grounds that he has failed to uphold the constitution or is unable to perform his functions. Finally, Parliament can remove the president with a two-thirds vote in each of the two legislative chambers.

Impeachment would be an ignominious end to the career of the "Grand Old Man" of African politics, once lauded as an anti-colonial hero and the only leader Zimbabwe has known since it gained independence from Britain in 1980.

There are fears that Mr Mnangagwa, a former security chief with a reputation for ruthlessness, will continue the repressive policies that had become a hallmark of the Mugabe regime.

"I told the president that the current political and constitutional crisis in the country is not a matter between him and myself but between the people of Zimbabwe and President Mugabe", Mnangagwa said in a statement.

"It capped an unprecedented week in which the military seized control and tens of thousands of ordinary Zimbabweans took to the streets in an extraordinary show of defiance to demand that he leave".

- November 15, 2017: Mugabe put under house arrest during military-led coup.

Mugabe is the only leader Zimbabwe has known since a guerrilla struggle ended white-minority rule in the former Rhodesia.

But in a a strongly worded statement from an unknown location on Tuesday morning, Mnangagwa said that he would not return until his safety could be guaranteed. Just five ministers turned up; 17 others attended impeachment meetings.

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