Zimbabwe’s state-run broadcaster says Emmerson Mnangagwa will be sworn in as the country’s new president on Friday, taking over following the resignation of longtime leader Robert Mugabe.
The announcement Wednesday came as Mnangagwa was due to return to Zimbabwe. The former vice president abruptly fled the country November 6 after Mugabe fired him.
Car horns blared as people danced, cheered and waved in the capital, Harare, to celebrate the news of Mugabe’s departure, which he announced Tuesday in a letter read out by the speaker of parliament.
One man told VOA’s Zimbabwe service: “This is a breakthrough…We are super excited as Zimbabweans and we want to thank God. Our prayers have been answered. We have suffered a lot for 37 years.”
Speaker Jacob Mudenda read out the resignation letter soon after lawmakers began proceedings to impeach Mugabe, who had been in power for 37 years.
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.”
The president was often criticized for human rights abuses that included the beatings, torture and killings of his political opponents.
Western countries imposed sanctions on Mugabe and his allies after his supporters began seizing white-owned farmland in 2000. Zimbabwe’s farm output and economy plummeted when the land was given to blacks with little experience in large-scale farming.
Criticism intensified in 2008, after inflation reached 231 million percent and Zimbabwe was forced to abandon its currency, the Zimbabwean dollar.
The country experienced new economic problems in recent years, as corruption and Mugabe’s heavy-handed economic policies scared away investors.
The U.S. embassy in Zimbabwe called Tuesday a historic moment for Zimbabwe and said the country must move toward free elections in which Zimbabweans choose their own leaders.