Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe has resigned after 37 years in power. He resigned in a letter sent to parliament as it began impeachment proceedings. His ally turned rival, former Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa, is expected to return from neighbouring South Africa and could be appointed as the new president within hours.

MPs erupted in applause and cheers, and citizens took to the streets in celebration. The briefly-exiled former vice-president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is expected to be appointed interim president. His dismissal led both the party and the military to intervene and force an end to Mugabe's 37-year long rule.

Mugabe's shock resignation came in the form of a letter read out by the speaker of parliament. In it, Mugabe - who had so far resisted pressure from the public, the army and his own party to step aside - said he was resigning to allow a smooth and peaceful transfer of power, and that his decision was voluntary. The announcement abruptly halted an impeachment hearing that had begun against him on Tuesday.

Lawmakers from the ruling party and opposition roared with glee, and spontaneous scenes of joy erupted in the streets with people dancing, singing, honking car horns and waving flags. "I'm so happy, wonderful, feeling so much excited, this is the greatest moment for our country," Julian Mtukudzi told the AFP news agency. "We have been having sleepless nights hoping and waiting and we are so happy. It's over and it's done."

Jubilant Zimbabweans have celebrated late into the night after Robert Mugabe resigned as president. He held power for 37 years and once said "only God" could remove him.

Zimbabwe's former vice-president, whose sacking led to the shock resignation of long-time leader Robert Mugabe, could be sworn in as the new president within hours, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who fled to South Africa two weeks ago, is due to arrive back on Wednesday, the Zanu-PF says. It is not clear how that affects his replacement, current Vice President Mphoko. Multiple sources say Mnangagwa will be appointed on Wednesday or Thursday. Reuters had quoted another party official as saying that Mnangagwa would serve the remainder of Mugabe's term until elections are held next year.

The news sparked wild celebrations across the country late into the night.

The announcement that the 93-year-old was stepping down came in the form of a letter read out in parliament on Wednesday, abruptly halting impeachment proceedings against him. In it, Mugabe said he was resigning to allow a smooth and peaceful transfer of power, and that his decision was voluntary. A Zanu-PF spokesman said Mnangagwa, 71, would serve the remainder of Mugabe's term until elections which are due to take place by September 2018.

Nicknamed the "crocodile" due to his political cunning, Mnangagwa issued a statement from exile calling on Zimbabweans to unite to rebuild the country. "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," Mnangagwa told Zimbabwe's NewsDay on Tuesday. His firing by Robert Mugabe two weeks ago triggered an unprecedented political crisis in the country.

It had been seen by many as an attempt to clear the way for Grace Mugabe to succeed her husband as leader and riled the military leadership, who stepped in and put Mugabe under house arrest.

Mugabe, 93, was until his resignation the world's oldest leader. According to the constitution his successor should be the current Vice-President, Phelekezela Mphoko, a supporter of Grace Mugabe. But a ZANU-PF official Larry Mavhima told Reuters Mnangagwa is to return home for 11:30 GMT, where he is later expected to be sworn-in.

Despite welcoming the news, Zimbabwean opposition and civil society figures have warned that the political culture needs to change. Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai told the BBC he hoped that Zimbabwe was on a "new trajectory" that would include free and fair elections. He said Mugabe should be allowed to "go and rest for his last days".

Prominent Zimbabwean opposition politician David Coltart tweeted: "We have removed a tyrant but not yet a tyranny." African Union president Alpha Conde said he was "truly delighted" by the news, but expressed regret at the way Mugabe's rule has ended."It is a shame that he is leaving through the back door and that he is forsaken by the parliament," he said.

Under the constitution, the role of successor would normally go to the serving vice-president, Phelekezela Mphoko. However, Mr Mphoko - a key ally of Grace Mugabe - is not believed to be in the country, and there are reports that he has been fired by Zanu-PF.

Some have questioned whether the handover to Mnangagwa will bring about real change in the country. He was national security chief at a time when thousands of civilians died in post-independence conflict in the 1980s, though he denies having blood on his hands.

Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai said he hoped that Zimbabwe was on a "new trajectory" that would include free and fair elections. He said Mugabe should be allowed to "go and rest for his last days". Prominent opposition politician David Coltart tweeted: "We have removed a tyrant but not yet a tyranny."

African Union president Alpha Conde said he was "truly delighted" by the news, but expressed regret at the way Mugabe's rule has ended. "It is a shame that he is leaving through the back door and that he is forsaken by the parliament," he said.

At 93, Mugabe was - until his resignation - the world's oldest leader. He once proclaimed that "only God" could remove him. His dismissal led both the party and the military to intervene and force an end to Mugabe's 37-year long rule. Lawmakers from the ruling party and opposition roared with glee, when the resignation letter was read aloud in parliament on Wednesday.

Activist and political candidate Vimbaishe Musvaburi broke down in tears of joy speaking to the media.  "We are tired of this man, we are so glad he's gone. We don't want him anymore and yes, today, it's victory," she said. Driving through Harare, the cheers and the blaring of car horns signaled the end of the Mugabe era.

The man who dominated Zimbabwe for so long has already begun to fade into history here. It is a city singing with the noise of joy.

Exactly a week after the military first moved against President Mugabe, legislators debated the motion to impeach him. Suddenly, there was cheering.

An usher approached the speaker and handed him a letter. He stood to speak and we strained to hear his words. They were muffled but momentous. On the floor of the parliament jubilant MPs danced. Celebrations spilled into the hallways and out into the street.

Will Mnangagwa revive and steady economy and reduce corruption, if not completely end it?

Of course doubtful!

Prolific writer, Independent Analyst; Columnist contributing articles to many  newspapers and journals on world politics; Expert on Mideast affairs, Chronicler of foreign occupations & freedom movements (Palestine, Kashmir, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Xinjiang, Chechnya, etc.)  Chancellor-Founder of Center for International Affairs (CIA); Commentator on world affairs & sport fixings, Former university teacher; Author of eBooks/books

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