Zimbabwe preparing to swear in first new leader for 37 years

Robert Mugabe announced his resignation yesterday

Zimbabwe preparing to swear in first new leader for 37 years

File photo, Dec 2014 | Zimbabwe’s former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, left, stands behind the country’s former President Robert Mugabe | Image: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP/Press Association Images

The man set to become Zimbabwe's first new president for nearly four decades is due back in the country this morning.

Emmerson Mnangagwa will take over the running of the country after Robert Mugabe resigned yesterday.

Mr Mugabe announced his resignation as the country’s Parliament was beginning impeachment proceedings against him.

The dictator ruled over Zimbabwe for 37 years. He finally relinquished his grip on power after the military seized control of the country and placed him under house arrest.

'The Crocodile'

Mr Mnangagwa was previously the country’s vice-president - but was sacked by Mugabe two weeks ago.

One of his assistants, Larry Mavhima said: "Comrade Mnangagwa is coming back today."

Mr Mnangagwa is expected to land in Zimbabwe at 11.30am Irish time, according to the Reuters news agency.

Wild celebrations continued on the streets of Zimbabwe overnight, with people dancing and singing following Mr Mugabe's departure:

"Welcome to the new Zimbabwe!" people chanted outside the Harare conference centre where MPs had earlier met to start impeachment proceedings.

"This is the best day of my life," said one man, as people celebrated on cars and crowded round tanks to shake hands with the soldiers lauded for their role in getting rid of the reviled leader.

"We didn't fight the 1980 war but we fought the 2017 war and we are happy that Mugabe is gone and he's gone for good. Happy new Zimbabwe," said another Harare resident.

International celebrations

Zimbabweans in other countries also celebrated the downfall of their long-time leader.

A crowd gathered outside the country's embassy in London, with people jumping up and down, waving flags and talking of "national joy" and a new hope.

Zimbabweans living in South Africa took to the streets of Johannesburg and some were pictured burning shirts of the ruling ZANU-PF party.

Resignation

Mr Mugabe announced his resignation with immediate effect on Tuesday afternoon.

The 93-year-old said he had chosen to step down "to ensure a smooth, peaceful and non-violent transfer of power," adding that he had made the decision voluntarily.

The African Union (AU) also welcomed the decision, saying the people had expressed their will for a "peaceful transfer of power."

AU commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said he welcomed "the decision by President Robert Mugabe to step down from his position as Head of State following a lifetime of service to the Zimbabwean nation."

US secretary of state Rex Tillerson said Zimbabwe had "an extraordinary opportunity to set itself on a new path."

Historic moment

Mr Mnangagwa told NewsDay: "I want to congratulate the people of Zimbabwe on reaching this historic moment.

"Together, we will ensure a peaceful transition to the consolidation of our democracy, and bring in a fresh start for all Zimbabweans and foster peace and unity."

Earlier this month, Mr Mugabe sparked the political crisis which ended his dictatorship by sacking Mr Mnangagwa - paving the way for his wife Grace to succeed him.

Military chiefs reacted by taking control of the capital, seizing the state broadcaster and placing Mr Mugabe under house arrest.

The ruler initially refused to stand down and told Zimbabweans in a televised address they must "learn to forgive."

But he was forced to face impeachment proceedings amid claims he allowed his wife "to usurp constitutional power" and had been seen "sleeping in cabinet and international meetings" - bringing "horror and shame" to Zimbabweans.

It is not clear what Robert and Grace Mugabe will do now.

Mr Mugabe had ruled Zimbabwe since 1980. Under his presidency, the southern African country's economy collapsed and unemployment rose to more than 90%.

The 93-year-old has been accused of a range of human rights abuses, including denying food aid to areas supporting the opposition.