Zimbabwean President Mugabe has stepped down, according to the speaker of the country’s parliament. Speaker Jacob Mudenda read out what he said was a resignation letter from Mugabe as lawmakers met Tuesday to begin impeachment proceedings against the president.
The letter said in part, “I, Robert Gabriel Mugabe, in terms of section 96 of the constitution of Zimbabwe, hereby formally tender my resignation with immediate effect.”
There has been no confirmation of the letter from the president or his office — but no denial, either.
Celebrations broke out in parliament after Mudenda’s announcement and quickly spread to the streets of Harare, with thousands of people dancing, chanting and waving Zimbabwean flags.
Mugabe is 93 years old and ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years, ever since the country won independence from Britain in 1980.
British Prime Minister Theresa May released a statement that said Mugabe’s resignation gives Zimbabwe the opportunity to pursue a path free of oppression. Mugabe had faced growing pressure to resign since last week, when the military took over state institutions and the ruling ZANU-PF party called on him to step aside.
The military took action after the president fired his vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, a hero of Zimbabwe’s liberation war, and hinted he would replace Mnangagwa with his wife, Grace Mugabe. The first lady and former vice president were locked a political battle over who would succeed the aging president, and led competing factions in the ruling party.
Discontent with Robert Mugabe has grown in Zimbabwe in recent years, after years of political oppression and economic hardship under his rule. But Mugabe was planning to run for another term as president in next year’s elections, when he would have been 94.