New dawn: Zimbabweans wake up to first day without Mugabe

In his resignation letter on Tuesday, Mugabe said he was stepping down to allow a peaceful transition.

People wave national flags as they celebrate outside the parliament in Harare, after the resignation of Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe on November 21, 2017. Picture: AFP

HARARE - Zimbabwean's across the world are waking up to a new dawn after President Robert Mugabe finally gave in to demands for him to step down.

Mugabe ruled the country previously praised for being Africa’s bread basket for 37 years but his presidency began crumbling after the military took control of the country last week.

The soldiers were fed up with infighting in the ruling Zanu-PF which came to a head when Mugabe sacked his deputy Emmerson Mnangagwa apparently to bolster his wife grace's political ambitions.

In his resignation letter on Tuesday, Mugabe said he was stepping down to allow for a peaceful transition.

Zimbabweans are still overwhelmed by the news that Mugabe has finally stepped down after 37 years.

On Wednesday, Zimbabwe’s axed vice president will be sworn in as the interim leader.

He had fled the country over safety concerns but he's hailed Zimbabweans for forcing Mugabe out.

Just on Sunday, however, Mugabe told the nation he wasn't leaving, and the military offered no threat.

“The operation I have alluded to did not amount to a threat to our well-cherished Constitutional order, nor was it a challenge to my authority as head of state and government.”

Mugabe finally resigned in the early stages of the Parliament’s impeachment processes against him on Tuesday afternoon.

Former Finance Minister Tendai Biti says the moment feels surreal.

“We are not sure whether we’ll wake up to the nightmare that Mugabe is still around. We have spent a whole of our lives fighting Mr Mugabe, spent whole of our lives under a terrible period of dictatorship.”

The military assumed control last week, prompting days of political uncertainty, that was until the 93-year-old leader tendered his resignation on Tuesday afternoon.

WATCH: Celebrations continue to fill the night in Harare


At the same time, millions of Zimbabweans at home and across the world are hopeful of a new beginning in the country’s politics after Mugabe finally gave in to demands for him to step down.

The soldiers were fed up with infighting in the ruling Zanu-PF which came to a head when Mugabe Mnagagwa apparently to bolster his wife grace's political ambitions.

In his resignation letter on Tuesday, Mugabe said he was stepping down to allow a peaceful transition.

Pride Mkono says he is one in many Zimbabweans who were arrested for treason after speaking against Mugabe’s government.

After spending eight months in prison and appearing in court 37 times, Mkono says he feels justified following Mugabe’s forced resignation.

“I have been arrested as total of 64 times. I spent time in different prisons across the country, all for the purposes of saying Mugabe must go. Not he’s gone. I have never felt more important being a Zimbabwean.”

Residents say they have learned not to glorify one person at the expense of their wellbeing and from here on will hold whoever is in government more accountable.


Political parties have applauded Zimbabweans for the transition of power without bloodshed, saying that they hope the change will trickle down to South Africa.

The Economic Freedom Fighters’ Mbuyiseni Ndlozi says Mugabe’s resignation shows he accepted democratic processes.

“Many people in his position are never removed without the spill of blood and here he’s getting out of power without a single life being lost.”

The Democratic Alliance’s Mabine Seabe says Mugabe’s resignation opens the way for fresh elections.

“This is the will of the people and it must be registered and that free and fair elections are held.”

The Inkatha Freedom Party’s Narend Singh says South Africa will also benefit from the change in power.

“There are indications that many people who are seeking asylum in South Africa will finally return back to Zimbabwe.”

Meanwhile, Congress of the People has also welcomed Mugabe’s co-operation in the violence free transition.

WATCH: The rise & fall of Robert Gabriel Mugabe

Nearly four decades after the country’s independence from Britain in 1980, he was regarded by many as an autocrat, willing to unleash death squads, rig elections and trash the economy in the relentless pursuit of power.

The 93-year-old resigned as president on Tuesday, ending 37 years of rule. He had clung on for a week after an army takeover and expulsion from his Zanu-PF party, but quit after parliament began an impeachment process against him.

Educated and urbane, Mugabe took power after seven years of a liberation bush war and is the only leader Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia, has known since independence from Britain in 1980.

The army seized power last week after Mugabe sacked Zanu-PF’s favourite to succeed him, Vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, to smooth a path to the presidency for his wife Grace, 52, known to her critics as “Gucci Grace” for her reputed fondness for luxury shopping.

“It’s the end of a very painful and sad chapter in the history of a young nation, in which a dictator, as he became old, surrendered his court to a gang of thieves around his wife,” Chris Mutsvangwa, leader of Zimbabwe’s influential liberation war veterans, told Reuters after the army takeover.


Born on a Catholic mission near Harare, Mugabe was educated by Jesuit priests and worked as a primary school teacher before going to South Africa’s University of Fort Hare, then a breeding ground for African nationalism.

Returning to Rhodesia in 1960, he entered politics but was jailed for a decade four years later for opposing white rule.

After his release, he rose to the top of the powerful Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army, known as the “thinking man’s guerrilla” on account of his seven degrees, three of them earned behind bars.

Later, as he crushed his political enemies, he boasted of another qualification - “a degree in violence”.

After the long bush war ended, Mugabe was elected as the nation’s first black prime minister. Initially, he offered reconciliation to old adversaries as he presided over a booming economy.

LISTEN: Robert Mugabe’s colourful & controversial political journey


But it was not long before Mugabe began to suppress challengers such as liberation war rival Joshua Nkomo.

Faced with a revolt in the mid-1980s in the western province of Matabeleland which he blamed on Nkomo, Mugabe sent in North Korean-trained army units, provoking an international outcry over alleged atrocities against civilians.

Human rights groups say 20,000 people died, most from Nkomo’s Ndebele tribe. The discovery of mass graves prompted accusations of genocide against Mugabe.

After two terms as prime minister, Mugabe changed the constitution and was elected president in 1990, shortly before the death of his first wife, Sally, seen by many as the only person capable of restraining him.

When, at the end of the century, he lost a constitutional referendum followed by a groundswell of black anger at the slow pace of land reform, his response was uncompromising.

As gangs of black people calling themselves war veterans invaded white-owned farms, Mugabe said it was a correction of colonial injustices.

“Perhaps we made a mistake by not finishing the war in the trenches,” he said in 2000. “If the settlers had been defeated through the barrel of a gun, perhaps we would not be having the same problems.”

The farm seizures helped ruin one of Africa’s most dynamic economies, with a collapse in agricultural foreign exchange earnings unleashing hyperinflation.

The economy shrank by more than a third from 2000 to 2008, sending unemployment above 80 percent. Several million Zimbabweans fled, mostly to South Africa.

An unapologetic Mugabe portrayed himself as a radical African nationalist competing against racist and imperialist forces in Washington and London.

Britain once likened him to Adolf Hitler but Mugabe did not mind, saying the Nazi leader had wanted justice, sovereignty and independence for his people: “If that is Hitler, then let me be a Hitler ten-fold.”


The country hit rock bottom in 2008, when 500 billion percent inflation drove people to support the challenge of Western-backed former union leader Morgan Tsvangirai.

Facing defeat in a presidential run-off, Mugabe resorted to violence, forcing Tsvangirai to withdraw after scores of his supporters were killed by Zanu-PF thugs.

An increasingly worried South Africa squeezed the pair into a fractious unity coalition but the compromise belied Mugabe’s de facto grip on power through his continued control of the army, police and secret service.

As old age crept in and rumours of cancer intensified, his animosity towards Tsvangirai eased, with the two men enjoying weekly meetings over tea and scones, a quirky nod to Mugabe’s affection for British tradition if not authority.

On the eve of the 2013 election, Mugabe dismissed cries of autocracy and likened dealing with Tsvangirai to sparring in the ring.

“Although we boxed each other, it’s not as hostile as before,” he said. “It’s all over now. We can shake hands.”

At the same time, Mugabe’s agents were finalising plans to engineer an election victory through manipulation of the voters’ roll, the Tsvangirai camp said.

The subsequent landslide was typical of a man who could always out-fight and out-think opponents.

“To give the devil his due, he is a brilliant tactician,” former US ambassador Christopher Dell wrote in a cable released by WikiLeaks.

Additional reporting by Reuters

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)