ELISE HU, HOST:
Robert Mugabe resigned as Zimbabwe's president today. It brings an end to his 37-year leadership of a nation he helped birth. His announcement was read out by the speaker of Parliament at the start of proceedings aimed at impeaching him.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
JACOB MUDENDA: Hereby formally tender my resignation as the president of the Republic of Zimbabwe with immediate effect.
HU: The move capped an extraordinary moment in Zimbabwe's history that began last week with the military's takeover of the country. We are joined now by NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton for more. Ofeibea, Mugabe kept clinging on to power, despite the military taking control, putting him and his wife under house arrest and seeking his ouster. Tell us about today.
OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Extraordinary events - an extraordinary week in Zimbabwe. President Mugabe, who was clinging on to power, despite the military his own party and millions of Zimbabweans saying, it's time for you to go, no impeachment proceedings had begun, as you said. And then, suddenly, out of the blue, Mugabe decides he is going to relinquish power after all. Zimbabweans can hardly believe it.
HU: How are Zimbabweans reacting, and what are they saying exactly?
QUIST-ARCTON: Elise, Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, is absolutely extraordinary - euphoric scenes, people feeling so jubilant and so happy. And you know what? There are several million Zimbabweans right here in South Africa. And they are also cheering. Listen to Elizabeth Endumbeni (ph). She lives here with her family, and she says, good riddance to Robert Mugabe.
ELIZABETH ENDUMBENI: Since he was ruling, people are suffering since 1980 until now. So we are very happy. We just need to change. Whoever is going to take over - we don't care. We don't mind. We just want the change.
HU: So Ofeibea, what happens next? Tell us more about the man likely to succeed Mugabe.
QUIST-ARCTON: At the moment, we're told that he is still in exile. He is ousted vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa. He was fired by Robert Mugabe two weeks ago. And that was because the first lady, Grace Mugabe, who is incredibly ambitious, wanted to become vice president. Now, when Emmerson Mnangagwa left the country, he issued a statement to say, I will be back to lead you. At the weekend, the governing ZANU-PF party ousted Mugabe as its leader and replaced him with Mnangagwa, who just today said Mugabe must go. And it seems that he will be installed as president either Wednesday or Thursday. We're waiting to hear more.
HU: And what now for Mugabe? He's the man who led guerrilla fighters in the battle for liberation from Britain and helped create Zimbabwe.
QUIST-ARCTON: You know, Zimbabweans are respectful people. And they're not violent. They like peace. So I think if President Mugabe, at 93 - and they have said to him, grandfather, look after your grandchildren. If you want to stay in Zimbabwe, you're welcome. They're not so keen on the first lady, but they will let him stay. But he might go to Singapore, where he goes for health care. He might come here to South Africa, which is a very good friend of his.
HU: And, Ofeibea, what effect could this resignation have on other countries in Africa?
QUIST-ARCTON: Many other African leaders, especially the sit-tight leaders - and if I go across this continent - Museveni in Uganda; in DR Congo, Joseph Kabila; in Equatorial Guinea, Obiang. All these sit-tight leaders must be stunned. This was their senior, and he has been hounded out of office, driven out of office. So this is going to perhaps give other Africans the encouragement and the energy and perhaps the courage to say to their leaders, it's time for you to go now.
HU: That's NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton in Johannesburg, South Africa. Thank you, Ofeibea.
QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure. Thank you, Elise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.