The African Union (AU), on Wednesday, welcomed the resignation of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe.
Moussa Mahamat, Chairperson of the AU Commission, in a statement said Tuesday’s decision will go down in history as an act of statesmanship that can only bolster Mugabe’s political legacy.
Mugabe resigned on Tuesday after pressure from the military and Zimbabweans, ending his 37-year grip on power.
His resignation was greeted with wild scenes of celebration by Zimbabweans who now look forward to a new political dispensation in the country.
Mugabe will be remembered as a fearless pan-Africanist liberation fighter, and the father of the independent Zimbabwean nation, AU’s statement said.
Mahamat noted that AU recognises that the Zimbabwean people have expressed their will that there should be a peaceful transfer of power in a manner that secures the democratic future of their country.
He said he is confident that the people, together with all their leaders, will remain steadfast in their commitment to fulfill their legitimate aspirations.
He added that the AU looks forward to Zimbabwe continuing to play a leading role in the affairs of the African continent, as a democratic and prosperous state meeting the aspirations of its people. He said the Southern African country has AU’s full support in the period ahead. UN called for calm and restraint in Zimbabwe following the resignation of Mugabe. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and General Assembly President Miroslav Lajcak called for calm and restraint in the southern African country after a week of political tumult.
Zimbabwe’s Parliament Speaker Jacob Mudenda on Tuesday announced the resignation of Mugabe, one day after the 93-year-old ignored a deadline set by his own party to step down. “The (UN) secretary-general encourages all Zimbabweans to maintain calm and restraint,” UN spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters in New York.
Mugabe was taken into custody by the military on Nov. 15 after he fired Deputy President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
His own political party restored Mnangagwa and demanded Mugabe’s resignation.
As Mugabe initially remained defiant, his party threatened to impeach him. Also, China said on Wednesday that it respects Mugabe’s decision to resign as president, a week after the African country’s army and Mugabe’s former political allies moved to end his nearly four decades of rule. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, Lu Kang, made the remark during a news conference, adding that China’s policy toward Zimbabwe would not change.
The 93-year-old Mugabe finally resigned on Tuesday, moments after parliament began an impeachment process, prompting dancing in the streets of the capital, Harare.
China has close ties with Zimbabwe and traditionally also with Mugabe himself, who is reviled in the West as a despot whose disastrous handling of the economy and willingness to resort to violence to maintain power destroyed one of Africa’s most promising states.
Kang told a news conference that China was happy to see Zimbabwe peacefully and appropriately resolve the issue via talks, and that its policy toward the country would not change. “China respects Mr Mugabe’s decision to resign. He remains a good friend of the Chinese people,” Lu said, adding that Mugabe had made “historic contribution to Zimbabwe’s independence and liberation”.
Zimbabwe’s army seized power after Mugabe sacked his former vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was a favorite to succeed him. Mugabe’s move was an apparent bid 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.
Asked about a U.S. call for free elections in Zimbabwe, Lu said China believed it could handle its own affairs and China hoped other countries would not interfere.
China and Zimbabwe have a close diplomatic and economic relationship, and China had stood with Mugabe’s government in the face of Western economic sanctions, investing in auto, diamond, tobacco and power-station projects.
In August, Zimbabwe said a Chinese company planned to invest up to $2 billion to revive operations at Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company, which ceased production in 2008 at the height of an economic meltdown.
That year, China vetoed a proposed Western-backed UN resolution that would have imposed an arms embargo on Zimbabwe and financial and travel restrictions on Mugabe and 13 other officials, saying it would “complicate”, rather than ease, conflict.
Meanwhile, former Vice President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is expected to be sworn in as president following the resignation of Mugabe, will return home on Wednesday, a ruling party ZANU-PF official said.
Mnangagwa, 75, who fled from Zimbabwe in fear of his safety after being sacked by Mugabe, will be sworn in as president on Friday, state broadcaster ZBC reported on Wednesday.
Mnangagwa will land back in Zimbabwe on Wednesday at 6pm (1600 GMT) at Manyame Airbase in Harare, ZBC said.
On Tuesday, people danced in the streets of Harare and car horns blared at the news that the era of Mugabe, who had led Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, was finally over.
Some brandished posters of Mnangagwa and army chief General Constantino Chiwenga.