Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has resigned, ending his 37-year reign.
His resignation brings to an end the political impasse in the state since last week when the military took charge of the government.
Mr. Mugabe, 93, had initially refused to resign, insisting he would hold on to power.
His resignation was announced Tuesday evening by the speaker of Zimbabwean parliament during a hearing to impeach him.
The development has now thrown Zimbabwe into a new era of uncharted political future, as his estranged vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, prepares to take over as the new president.
The resignation marked the climax of an eight-day turmoil sparked by last week’s move by the military to seize control of the government in order to block the rise to power of Mr. Mugabe’s wife, Grace.
Mrs. Mugabe had been scheming to become the next leader of Zimbabwe after the expiration of her husband’s current tenure next year.
The efforts to make her leader had been largely opposed by military chiefs, with Chief of Army Staff Constantino Chiwenga warning that the country could be plunged into crisis if someone who didn’t participate in the liberation struggle was made to head the country, an apparent rebuke of the 52-year old who married Mr. Mugabe in 1996.
The military later denied that its action constituted a coup, saying it was only after members of a clique in Mr. Mugabe’s cabinet who were deemed corrupt and criminal. The intervention snowballed into a popular revolt against Mr. Mugabe.
Jacob Mudenda, the speaker, said the letter indicating Mr. Mugabe’s decision to resign was voluntary. But the ousted president did not leave anyone in charge.
The announcement was welcomed with wild cheers and celebrations which spread through the streets of Harare, the country’s capital.
The African Union has welcomed the development, with its chairperson, Alpha Conde, saying it was a shame that Mr. Mugabe had to leave through the back door.
But he remained “a great fighter,” Mr. Conde, Guinean president, said.
Following the expiration of a deadline which they had set for Mr. Mugabe to resign, lawmakers had commenced impeachment proceedings against Mr. Mugabe Tuesday; with the ruling party, Zanu-PF, joining forces with the opposition to remove the defiant leader from office.
Mr. Mugabe’s resignation has now created a clear path for Emmerson Mnangagwa, the vice-president fired by Mr. Mugabe 13 days ago, to take power. He was named the interim leader of the Zanu-PF at an emergency meeting on Sunday during which Mr. Mugabe was fired as leader of the party.
Shortly before impeachment proceedings began against Mr. Mugabe Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Mnangagwa added his voice to demands for his erstwhile principal to step down; speaking for the first time since the November 15 military intervention.
Mr. Mnangagwa, 75, is a veteran of Zimbabwe’s liberation wars and a former intelligence officer with close ties to the commanders who led the takeover.
It remained unclear if Mr. Mnangagwa and Zanu-PF would carry opposition leaders along as they form a new government, especially Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change.
Mr. Mugabe, his wife and some of his cabinet members were placed under house arrest shortly after the coup last week. He declined to step down despite interventions by international negotiators led by South Africa Development Community.
Hours after he was removed as leader of Zanu-PF on Sunday, a defiant Mr. Mugabe addressed the nation to reassert his position as the leader of Zimbabwe, saying he would not quit and would, in fact, lead the party’s congress slated for December.
The defiance further enraged Zimbabweans, with many blaming the military for being too afraid to take a decisive action against the 93-year-old.
The Zimbabwean war veterans were also vehemently opposed to Mr. Mugabe’s continued stay in office. Many of them, who had been exiled in recent years, returned home to join the struggle over the past one week.
He was given until noon on Monday to resign or face impeachment. His resignation letter was submitted as impeachment got underway.
Mr. Mugabe came to power in 1980 following Zimbabwe’s independence which came after years of civil war and freedom strife against colonial rule.
His tenure had been marred by allegations of ruthlessness and economic deprivation. In 2000, he oversaw a violent expulsion of white farmers in the country, seizing their lands and sending many out of the country.
The policy plunged a substantial majority of the country’s 13 million people deeper into poverty, compelling many to flee to neighbouring countries like Namibia and South Africa.