25th November 2017
Zimbabwe’s newly inaugurated president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, said democratic elections will be held on time next year and pledged to lead the revival of the economically distressed southern African nation.
“We dare not squander this moment,” Mnangagwa, 75, told supporters at the 68,000-seat national sports stadium in Harare, the capital. “I have to hit the ground running.”
Mnangagwa, who replaced Robert Mugabe after he resigned Tuesday to end 37 years in power, spoke about the need to revive an economy in free-fall, with a 90 percent jobless rate, a severe cash shortage and crumbling public infrastructure. He vowed to clamp down on corruption and pledged to put the southern African nation back to work.
“We put a premium on creating jobs, jobs, more jobs,” he said. “We welcome mutually gainful partnerships with international investors. The bottom line is we need an economy that’s back on its feet.”
Mnangagwa was Mugabe’s right-hand man for half a century through the liberation war against white-ruled Rhodesia and since independence in 1980 until their rupture in recent months. He described the former president as “my mentor, my father, my leader.”
At Mnangagwa’s Friday inauguration, helicopters and planes flew in formation, an artillery unit fired a 21-gun salute, honor guards with fixed bayonets high-stepped and Zimbabwean pop star Jah Prayzah had people dancing on a day celebrating a new stage in the nation’s history. Such an occasion had seemed almost impossible to imagine for many Zimbabweans as the years dragged on under the 93-year-old Mugabe.
In a show of regional support for the new leader, the presidents of Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia attended the inauguration, with the crowd cheering Botswana’s leader Ian Khama for his past calls for Mugabe to step down.
Zimbabwean military commander Gen. Constantino Chiwenga also got a big cheer from the tens of thousands in the stadium. His forces staged a takeover last week amid alarm over a perceived power grab by a ruling party faction loyal to Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace. The act of sending tanks into the streets triggered the national clamor leading to her husband’s resignation.
However, the national police commissioner, Gen. Augustine Chihuri, was booed when he pledged allegiance to the new president, reflecting public anger over perceived corruption in police ranks.
While Mnangagwa said “let bygones be bygones” in his speech and has warned against retaliation, human-rights activists and lawyers already were reporting moves against some figures linked to Mugabe’s wife.
Ignatious Chombo, the finance minister under Mugabe, was attacked after the military swept in and will appear in court today in connection with allegedly corrupt land deals, said his lawyer Lovemore Madhuku.
He said charges against Chombo, who has not been seen in public since the military takeover, were read out Thursday while he lay in bed at a government-run hospital.
Elsewhere in the capital, long lines formed outside banks, a common sight in the financially distressed nation.
“His major challenge will be creating an investment climate and efficiency in government, but he made no real mention of strengthening and rooting democracy,” said David Coltart, an opposition senator. “I suspect he’ll establish a Chinese-style of governance.”
Mnangagwa urged western nations that have imposed sanctions on Zimbabwe to reconsider their measures and said his government was committed to compensating farmers whose land was taken under a Mugabe-backed expropriation program.
The president himself remains under U.S. sanctions for his activities as Mugabe’s enforcer, a role that earned him the nickname “Crocodile.”
Mnangagwa was minister of state security during the army killings of thousands of people when Mugabe moved against a political rival in the 1980s, and was justice minister around the time that the farm takeovers started. He also was in the Cabinet at the time of a violent crackdown on opponents in the 2008 presidential election.
Mnangagwa came to power after a tumultuous three weeks that started with his firing by Mugabe on Nov. 6 over accusations by Grace Mugabe that the former spy chief was plotting a coup. The armed forces’ intervention and a decision by the ruling party to back Mnangagwa as its leader and to begin impeachment proceedings against Mugabe prompted the president to resign.
Mugabe and his wife, Grace, are currently at their Blue Roof mansion in the suburbs of Harare, according to an official close to the former president who asked not to be identified because he isn’t authorized to speak to the media. Mnangagwa’s administration won’t prosecute Mugabe or his family and they are free to remain in the country, according to the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front.
Information for this article was contributed by Brian Latham and Godfrey Marawanyika of The Associated Press and by Christopher Torchia and Farai Mutsaka of The Associated Press.