Zimbabweans Respond To The Resignation Of Robert Mugabe, The World's Oldest Dictator

“I’ve been waiting so long for this moment.”

On Tuesday, Zimbabweans flooded the streets in celebration after president and dictator Robert Mugabe resigned.

At 93 years old, Mugabe was the oldest living leader in the world and had been ruling Zimbabwe since its independence in 1980. After refusing urges to resign, he was put under house arrest by the country's military when he fired his vice president to try and open the door for his wife to succeed him.

The announcement of Mugabe's resignation was made by Jacob Mudenda, the speaker of the Parliament, who read off a letter stating his decision was for "the welfare of the people of Zimbabwe and the need for a peaceful transfer of power." In Harare, the nation's capital, residents poured into the streets to celebrate. The New York Times reported that lawmakers "erupted into cheers" when Mudenda read the letter. 

Mugabe's reputation, up to the announcement, was one of unrelenting power. He had refused to resign even after his own political party expelled him, and early Tuesday morning Zimbabwe lawmakers had introduced impeachment proceedings for the first time in the country's history.

All across Zimbabwe, videos of citizens celebrating quickly went viral.

With Mugabe's resignation official, former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa — who left for South Africa after being fired — is on his way back to Zimbabwe.  He will serve as president until the next set of elections are held in September of 2018.

While the reactions have been covered as overwhelmingly positive, for some people it's been more complex. Several Zimbabweans who spoke to news outlets like BBC, The Washington Post and The New York Times expressed a sense of melancholy at the end of Mugabe's rule, as he was largely seen as a father figure in the country. Others framed him as an old man who had been negatively influenced by the people around him and directed their anger towards his wife, who tried to take over the presidency despite having little political experience.

, a Zimbabwean citizen, wrote for Pink News that the homophobia Mugabe helped foster in the country is still there. She expressed reservations that things would improve under new leadership, particularly for the LGBT community.

"History has shown us that politicians will sell us a dream in exchange for our votes only to crush those dreams before our eyes once they are in power," Meanzanise wrote. "As a queer person, my deepest fear is that we may only be replacing one homophobe with another, even if they may not be as dramatic."

Others simply see Mnangagwa, who was loyal to Mugabe until being fired, as an extension and continuation of Mugabe's policies. Mnangagwa was national security chief when government and civilian conflict in the 1980s left thousands of Zimbabwe citizens dead, something many have not forgotten. 

For now, though, the country appears to be full of hope that real change might come and the corruption of the past will stay in the past. 

"It's the best thing that's ever happened to Zimbabwe," Perseverance Sande, a 20-year-old Zimbabwe native, told The New York Times. "I've been waiting so long for this moment."

Cover image via REUTERS/Mike Hutchings.

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