PRETORIA, African Union (AU) Commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat has welcomed the decision by Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe to step down, describing it as an act of statesmanship.

President Mugabe will be remembered as a fearless pan-Africanist liberation fighter, and the father of the independent Zimbabwean nation. [This] decision will go down in history as an act of statesmanship that can only bolster President Mugabe’s political legacy, he said Wednesday.

The AU said in a statement that it recognizsed that the Zimbabwean people expressed their will and that there should be a peaceful transfer of power in a manner which secures the democratic future of their country following a lifetime of service by Mugabe.

President Mugabe’s decision to resign is set to pave the way for a transition process, owned and led by the sovereign people of Zimbabwe, the statement added.

Throughout the years, the people of Zimbabwe have demonstrated remarkable resilience and resourcefulness, and commitment to their country. The Chairperson of the Commission is confident that they, together with all their leaders, will remain steadfast in their commitment to fulfill their legitimate aspirations, the statement added.

The 93-year-old Mugabe tendered his letter of resignation to the Speaker of the Zimbabwean Parliament, Jacob Mudendahe, on Tuesday evening after 37 years as the Head of State. In the letter, President Mugabe said he decided to step down to allow for the smooth transition of power in the country.

On Sunday, Zimbabwe’s ruling party announced that President Mugabe had been removed from his position as President and First Secretary of the ZANU PF by a unanimous vote at a Central Committee Special Session in Harare. The party said he had been given until midday on Monday to resign from his position as Head of State, a deadline which was not met.

ZANU-PF then filed a motion in Parliament seeking Mugabe’s impeachment and this was being debated when Mugabe’s letter of resignation reached the Speaker.

The AU said it looked forward to Zimbabwe continuing to play a leading role in the affairs of the continent, as a democratic and prosperous State meeting the aspirations of its people.

Faki pledged the AU’s full support to the Zimbabwean people and leaders in the period ahead. The Commission called for the use of the relevant AU instruments such as the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance to guide the new era of Zimbabwe.

The African Union will continue to work closely with the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the efforts and commitment of which it hails.”