Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe inspects an honor guard during the Heroes Day commemorations at National Heroes Acre in Zimbabwe on Aug. 14, 2017. (Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images)
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Jekesai Njikizana felt the mood change quickly as members of Zimbabwe's parliament gathered for a special joint session Nov. 21. At first, “the atmosphere was very strange,” said the Zimbabwean photographer who works for Agence France-Presse in Harare. “You had a sense of how momentous the occasion was.”

The joint session had just one item on its agenda: to impeach president Robert Mugabe, who had ruled Zimbabwe since it gained its independence from Great Britain in 1980. “When the parliamentarians began their impeachment process, they were saying things about Mugabe that hadn't been said in public in this country for more than a generation,” said Njikizana in an email interview.

As both members of Mugabe's ruling party, Zanu-PF, and opposition leaders agreed in their criticism of their president, the speaker, Jacob Mudenda, suddenly called for a halt to the proceedings. “That's when I became alert to the tension in the air,” Njikizana said. The speaker, with a crackle in his voice, asked for patience as he read a letter he had just been handed. “Then, everyone in the room realized something big was in the offing.”

Njikizana moved closer to the speaker's desk as an opposition member, Nelson Chamisa, went up to read the letter for himself. “I looked at his face and I knew that Mugabe had resigned,” Njikizana said. “I had no time for emotions as I knew my responsibility was to capture everybody else's emotions.”

Njikizana's photographs show the raucous celebration that followed as men and women jumped up from their chairs, some even standing on desks celebrating the end of Mugabe's reign.

The day's events also marked the end of Njikizana's coverage of Mugabe's presidency, which started 10 years ago with a failed opportunity.

“I had just gotten my first media accreditation with the government and had primed myself to take my first picture of Mugabe,” Njikizana said. “The sirens wailed, the moment was set, the bodyguards jumped out of the vehicles and car doors banged all around me. My heart was in my mouth as I readied my point-and-shoot camera.” As a mass of people walked toward Njikizana, one man, wearing a colorful suit and sunglasses, moved in its midst. “I froze,” the photographer said. “And I didn't take a single frame.”

This week, Njikizana didn't freeze as he captured the euphoric celebration both inside parliament and on the streets of Harare.


Zimbabwe first lady Grace Mugabe, in a blue dress, attends the opening of the annual agricultural fair Aug. 25, 2017, in the capital Harare. (Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images)

A man greets Zimbabwean soldiers as people demonstrate to demand the resignation of Zimbabwe's president on Nov. 18, 2017, in Harare. (Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images)

Zimbabwean soldiers block demonstrators demanding the resignation of Zimbabwe's president near the State House on Nov. 18, 2017, in Harare. (Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images)

A masked Zimbabwean soldier looks on as people demonstrate to demand the resignation of Zimbabwe's president on Nov. 18, 2017, in Harare. (Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images)

Zimbabwe Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda presides over a parliament session where a motion was put forward to impeach President Robert Mugabe on Nov. 21, 2017. (Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images)

Zimbabwean members of parliament assemble to impeach President Robert Mugabe on Nov. 21, 2017. (Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images)

Zimbabwe's members of parliament celebrate after President Robert Mugabe's resignation on Nov. 21, 2017, in Harare. (Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images)

Zimbabwe's members of parliament celebrate after President Robert Mugabe's resignation Nov. 21, 2017, in Harare. (Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images)

Zimbabwe's Speaker Jacob Mudenda announces the resignation of Robert Mugabe on Nov. 21, 2017, in Harare. (Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images)

Zimbabwe's members of parliament celebrate after President Robert Mugabe's resignation Nov. 21, 2017, in Harare. (Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images)

People remove a portrait of former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe from a wall at the International Conference Center after his resignation Nov. 21, 2017, in Harare. (Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images)

Zimbabwe's incoming President Emmerson Mnangagwa gestures as he speaks to supporters at Zimbabwe's ruling Zanu-PF party headquarters in Harare on Nov. 22, 2017. (Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images)

Interim Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa holds the Bible as he is officially sworn in by the chief judge of the Supreme Court, Luke Malaba, during a ceremony in Harare on Nov. 24, 2017. (Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images)

A supporter of Zimbabwe's new interim President Emmerson Mnangagwa waves a poster of army Chief of Staff General Constantino Chiwenga ahead of the swearing-in ceremony at the National Sports Stadium in Harare on Nov. 24 2017. (Jekesai Njikizana/AFP/Getty Images)