Wild celebrations on the streets of Harare, and indeed the whole of Zimbabwe, as news that Zimbabwe’s long-serving president Robert Mugabe has resigned.
Mugabe tendered his resignation to parliament speaker Jacob Mudenda, who announced the news. The surprise announcement came as lawmakers debated an impeachment motion against the 93-year- old leader in a joint sitting of parliament.
Mugabe had previously refused to resign despite last week’s military takeover, and days of protests against his rule. He has been in power since independence in 1980.
“This is one of the best days of my life,” said Gift Gombiro (34). Gombiro is a university graduate but has been reduced to being a vendor to make ends meet.
“I sell mobile telephony airtime to make a living, and have not been able to practice what I spent years at university studying, all because of this man.
“His departure is no loss for me. It’s good riddance of bad rubbish really,” he said.
Despite inheriting an economy which was thriving in 1980, Mugabe has steadfastly reduced the country from a bread-basket of the region to a basket case.
Unemployment is now at 95 percent. Industry is as good as dead with most companies having closed shop.
The manufacturing sector is operating at 35 percent of capacity. The mining sector is the only sector which is vibrant, but not much is being realised from exports of gold and platinum, the two major export earners for the country.
Commercial griculture, which used to be the mainstay of the economy, has been reduced to peasant farming.
What used to be thriving huge agricultural concerns have been cut up and allocated to Mugabe supporters, the majority of whom are not farmers but mere landowners.
The sector, which used to be the mainstay of the Zimbabwe economy, is a pale shadow of its past.
Most products are now being imported from regional countries like South Africa.
But the current situation did not deter people to take to the streets and celebrate. Horns were blaring all over. Dancing in the streets is happening all over.
“We wait to see what the future holds for us,” said Bernard Zimuto (65).
“This is the second independence for me, and I will celebrate it today in the same manner that I did in 1980,” he said. “Under Mugabe’s regime, I lost all my savings. I have been reduced to a pauper and have had to start all over again, but time is not on my side,” he lamented.
It is expected that Emmerson Mnangagwa, Mugabe’s once long-serving second in command, will take over after Mugabe.
But people are not sure whether Mnangangwa will really change anything.
“This is a man who has been at Mugabe’s side for the past 50 years, and has been at the centre of the rot that has been the regime’s stock in trade,” said Emelda Rimi, a mother of three.
“What new things will he bring to the table? He is just as rotten as the old man. The system in place is one he is responsible for and there is no way he is expected to conjure up a rabbit from the hat.”
Mugabe’s downfall began last week when the military too to the streets and forced Mugabe’s hand.
In an operation dubbed Operation Restore Legacy, the military called for Mugabe to step down and make way for a new order. Despite early protestations on his part, the die was cast.
The rest, as they say, is history.