(GIN) – Celebrations erupted in Zimbabwe’s parliament today with the news that Robert Mugabe has resigned as president of Zimbabwe. The resignation takes immediate effect, ending 37 years in power.
A letter submitted to parliament by Mr. Mugabe said his decision to resign was voluntary. The way is now clear for Emmerson Mnangagwa to take power. He was appointed interim leader of Zanu-PF at a meeting on Sunday.
The military has said it has no intention of staying in power and, according to the constitution, Mnangagwa takes the place of Mugabe as head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
During a speech on Sunday, Mr. Mugabe appeared to acknowledge the rising discontent from inside his party and from the security forces. “I as the President of Zimbabwe and their commander in chief do acknowledge the issues they have drawn my attention to… These were raised in the spirit of honesty and out of deep and patriotic concern.”
He suggested that a conversation within the party could return the country to normalcy “so all our people could go about their business unhindered, in perfect peace and security, assured that law and order obtain and prevail as before.”
Now, the anticipation of long-awaited change has exploded in joyous street rallies and marches – clearly the population has turned a corner on the Mugabe era. The country was not likely to “return to normalcy,” as the President claimed.
Mrs. Mugabe, whose rise to power and possibly the presidency alarmed war veterans and generals, stayed out of the limelight.
The unexpected developments that began last Tuesday produced voluminous articles and interviews by Zimbabweans and western observers. Many expressed concerned that the stage-management by military officers was not the return to democracy that many had hoped.
“Some citizens, rightfully desperate for change, say this is the best step toward some kind of reform, but it’s not,” wrote Glen Mpani, a Zimbabwean political analyst writing for the New York Times. “There is evidence this intervention is driven by the self-interest of military generals rather than national interest, which makes prospects for economic and democratic reforms bleak.”
“Handing power to the military will leave Zimbabweans at the mercy of a very unpredictable group that has rarely worked on behalf of the people,” he continued. “And military leadership will most certainly leave the people with an unpredictable future.
“Coups are a regressive path to achieving democratic ends,” he concluded. “Once the army has settled in, its interests — not ours — will be the priority. Any prospects for reforming the country lie in returning power to citizens — and for the army to respect civilian authority.”