ROBERT Mugabe has resigned as president of Zimbabwe, parliament speaker Jacob Mudenda said, ending a 37-year rule defined by brutality and economic collapse.

"I Robert Gabriel Mugabe in terms of section 96 of the constitution of Zimbabwe hereby formally tender my resignation ... with immediate effect," said speaker Mr Mudenda, reading the letter. "I have resigned to allow a smooth transfer of power. My decision is voluntary on my part."

The bombshell news was delivered to a special joint session of parliament.

Politicians had convened to debate a motion to impeach Mugabe, who has dominated every aspect of Zimbabwean public life since independence in 1980.

It was greeted on the streets of the capital Harare with car horns and wild cheering.

It capped an unprecedented week in which the military seized control, tens of thousands of Zimbabwean citizens took to the streets to demand the president go and 93-year-old Mugabe wrestled to remain in power.

Fearsome Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa - nicknamed "The Crocodile" - is expected to take power within two days, The Sun reports.

The news comes just hours after proceedings had started against the stubborn tyrant, who is accused of allowing his wife Grace "to usurp constitutional power".

The pariah president ignored an imposed deadline yesterday to quit, after being axed by his own ruling following last week's military coup.

Parliament speaker Mubenda gave permission for a joint session of the House of Assembly and the Senate to debate a motion that would trigger impeachment proceedings against Mugabe.

"This motion is unprecedented in the history of post-independence Zimbabwe," Mubenda declared.

Politicians from across the political spectrum had called on Mugabe to quit after the military seized power and tens of thousands of citizens took to the streets to demand his resignation.

Mugabe had ruled Zimbabwe almost unopposed since the country won independence from Britain.

But his efforts to position his wife Grace as his successor triggered fury in the military that had underpinned his regime.

"Gucci" Grace, as the 52-year-old is known, is also facing prosecution over her sprees using public cash and ordering purges of rivals.

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