Mugabe poster

Robert Mugabe resigns: Reactions from around the world

You're reading

Robert Mugabe resigns: Reactions from around the world

22 Nov 2017

5min min read

After a turbulent week following the military takeover in Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe submitted his resignation on Tuesday 21 November 2017, heralding a new, albeit uncertain, era for the country. 

Zimbabweans at home and abroad were jubilant; many had not known another president besides the 93-year-old, who was in office for 37 years and presided over the country's deep economic decline. Responses to Mugabe's departure from activists, politicians and the United Nations have been cautiously optimistic. We round up some of them here. 


Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai told the BBC  he hoped Mugabe's resignation "opens a new trajectory for the country rather than a perpetuation of the same Mugabe culture". He wouldn't be drawn on whether he would be part of the new government, but stressed the need for reforms, free and fair elections and inclusivity to be part of Zimbabwe's new political roadmap. 

Evan Mawarire, activist and leader of the #ThisFlag movement, was overcome with emotion.

Zimbabweans in Johannesburg, South Africa rejoiced through the night.

The African Union

AU commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat said he "welcomes the decision by President Robert Mugabe to step down from his position as Head of State following a lifetime of service to the Zimbabwean nation."

"President Mugabe will be remembered as a fearless pan-Africanist liberation fighter, and the father of the independent Zimbabwean nation," he said in a statement released late Tuesday.

“The African Union 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,” the statement said.

“President Mugabe’s decision to resign paves the way for a transition process, owned and led by the sovereign people of Zimbabwe”.

The United Nations

Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesperson for the UN secretary-general, said Antonio Guterres is encouraging Zimbabweans to "maintain calm and restraint" following Mugabe's stepdown.

"The secretary-general and his predecessors have made clear that we expect all leaders to listen to their people. That is a cornerstone of every form of government and needs to be followed in every continent and in every nation," Haq reportedly said

United Kingdom

UK Prime Minister Theresa May said Mugabe's resignation "provides Zimbabwe with an opportunity to forge a new path free of the oppression that characterised his rule. In recent days we have seen the desire of the Zimbabwean people for free and fair elections and the opportunity to rebuild the country’s economy under a legitimate government."

"As Zimbabwe’s oldest friend we will do all we can to support this, working with our international and regional partners to help the country achieve the brighter future it so deserves," she said in a statement

Boris Johnson, UK Secretary of State, said he "would not pretend to regret Mugabe's downfall", and indicated he would support Zimbabwe's return to the Commonwealth if the country met certain commitments.

Southern African Development Community (SADC)

The SADC Secretariat commended Mugabe for "his bold decision to step down from his position of Head of State of the Republic of Zimbabwe, and his lifetime commitment to serving Zimbabwe and the SADC region."

It added: "As chairperson of SADC, between 2014 and 2015, President Mugabe steered the development and adoption of the SADC Industrialisation Strategy and Roadmap (2015-2063). Through the strategy, President Mugabe envisaged the transformation of SADC economies from being raw resource-dependent to economies that benefit from value-addition and beneficiation, and economies that are technology driven.

The SADC also praised Zimbabweans for "conducting themselves in a steady, mature and peaceful manner during this historic transition and transfer of power".

"As Zimbabweans enter a new political epoch, SADC stands ready to work closely with the incoming president, his government and the people of Zimbabwe," the statement read. 

South Africa

President Jacob Zuma met with Zimbabwe's incoming leader Emmerson Mnangagwa in Pretoria earlier this week and extended his congratulations. Mnangagwa is expected to be sworn in on Friday.

"President Zuma has also extended his good wishes to former president Robert Mugabe and emphasised that his contribution to the liberation of the Southern African region and the decolonisation of the continent in general will always be acknowledged and celebrated," the Presidency said in a statement.  

South African opposition parties welcomed Mugabe's resignation and called for free and fair elections to follow. Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane tweeted:

The Economic Freedom Fighters released the following statement: 

International Relations and Cooperation Deputy Minister Luwellyn Landers called for the SADC to play a monitoring role in Zimbabwe. “SADC should play its monitoring role and monitor things as they happen to ensure that the proper processes are followed all the time and that they are in line with the Zimbabwean Constitution.

“From their past experience with the people of Zimbabwe, we have to allow the people of Zimbabwe to do what is expected of them without interfering,”  Landers said.


Opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema congratulated Zimbabweans and used the occasion to send a message to African leaders about democracy.

"Power belongs to the people and African leaders must surely adopt the: power by the people, for the people and to the people.

Nothing more, nothing less, congratulations Zimbabwe for showing that power belongs to the people and not an individual," he wrote in a Facebook post


In a news briefing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Lu Kang said: “China respects Mr Mugabe’s decision to resign, and he is still a good friend of the Chinese people."

“Our friendly policy towards Zimbabwe will not change. We want to continue to follow the principles of equality, mutual benefits, and win-win cooperation."

“China respects the choice made by Zimbabwe’s people and we consistently and strongly adhere to the principle of not interfering in other countries’ domestic affairs,” Lu said.


Pleased with Mugabe's resignation, the government of Botswana said it "share[s] in the excitement, joy and celebration over this development by the people of Zimbabwe".

"Going forward it is the Government of Botswana’s hope that the era of corruption, economic chaos, political intolerance, coupled with election rigging and brutality will be a thing of the past."

"The Government of Botswana will always be available to provide support for the Zimbabwean people’s new democratic journey of opportunity."

Mo Ibrahim Foundation

The Foundation welcomed Mugabe's resignation, saying: "We hope that this decision will allow for a smooth and peaceful transition of power, and that all Zimbabweans will get their chance of an authentic, fair and legitimate election process."

Mo Ibrahim said: "Robert Mugabe’s overdue departure now gives the people of Zimbabwe the chance to determine their futures. It is vital that a proper, fair and transparent process is in place for the next election. Zimbabweans deserve that, and they will rightly demand that."

Human Rights Watch

Southern Africa Director for Human Rights Watch, Dewa Mavingha, said Zimbabwe's next administration must focus on crucial reforms.

Amnesty International

Amnesty International highlighted that Zimbabwe, who grew notorious for human rights abuses under Mugabe, must "transition into a new era where the rule of law is respected and those who are responsible for injustices are held to account".

“During 37 years of President Mugabe’s leadership, tens of thousands of people were tortured, forcibly disappeared or killed. President Mugabe condoned human rights violations, defended criminal actions of his officials and allowed a culture of impunity for grotesque crimes to thrive," its Secretary General Salil Shetty said in a statement.

“The people of Zimbabwe deserve better. The next generation of leaders must commit itself to upholding the constitution, living up to Zimbabwe’s international human rights obligations and treating its people with dignity and justice.”

(Main image: Belal Khaled/NurPhoto via Getty)

*Updated on 24 November 2017 to include responses from South Africa and the SADC.