Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe’s president for nearly 37 years, resigned on Tuesday after being sidelined by the military and cast out by his own political party, marking the end of a tumultuous reign that lasted from the country’s independence through economic collapse.
“I Robert Gabriel Mugabe in terms of section 96 of the constitution of Zimbabwe hereby formally tender my resignation… with immediate effect,” said parliament speaker Jacob Mudenda, while reading his resignation letter.
The capital erupted in celebration, with crowds pouring into the streets, motorists honking horns and citizens giving high-fives to soldiers.
The letter from Mr Mugabe said that the decision was voluntary and that he had made it to allow a smooth transition of power.
The surprise announcement halted an impeachment hearing that had begun against him.
Lawmakers also roared in jubilation as Zimbabweans continue celebrating in the streets.
“We are just so happy that things are finally going to change,” Togo Ndhlalambi, a hairdresser, told the AFP news agency.
“I am the happiest person under the sun right now, because I always believed that Mugabe was going to step down in my lifetime and it has happened,” human rights activist Linda Masarira told the BBC.
“And now going forward it’s time for the opposition to reorganise and ensure that we will have a government that cares for the people. And everyone has to be included.”
“The dictator is gone!” Takudzwa Jonasi, 32, chemical engineer, shouted as he celebrated with a jubilant crowd outside parliament.
Mr Mugabe, 93, was until now the world’s oldest leader. He had previously refused to resign despite last week’s military takeover and days of protests.
The letter did not mention who would take over from Mr Mugabe, who has been in power since independence in 1980.
The constitution says it should be the current vice-president, Phelekezela Mphoko, a supporter of Grace Mugabe, Mr Mugabe’s wife.
Meanwhile, Mr Mudenda said moves were under way to ensure a new leader could take over by late on Wednesday.