[WATCH] Zimbabwe: former vice president Mnangagwa hails a 'new democracy'

The 75-year-old Emmerson Mnangagwa is set to be sworn in as president on Friday

Emmerson Mnangagwa addresses supporters in Harare (Photo: Mike Hutchings/Reuters)
Emmerson Mnangagwa addresses supporters in Harare (Photo: Mike Hutchings/Reuters)


Zimbabwe’s former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa said the country is witnessing a “new and unfolding democracy”, as he returned to a warm welcome two weeks after fleeing to South Africa following his sacking by Robert Mugabe.

The 75-year-old liberation war veteran and stalwart of the ruling Zanu-PF party is to be sworn in as president on Friday. 

His firing triggered the political crisis, which culminated in the resignation of the 93-year-old Mugabe on Tuesday.

Mnangagwa arrived from Johannesburg at a military airbase in Harare on Wednesday afternoon and travelled to the Zanu-PF headquarters where a crowd of several hundred had gathered to hear his first speech as president-in-waiting.

“The people have spoken. The voice of the people is the voice of God,” he told supporters. “Today we are witnessing the beginning of a new and unfolding democracy.”

Soldiers controlled admission to the concrete complex, but allowed hawkers to sell ice-creams, bananas and soft drinks. Outside, a makeshift stall selling Zanu-PF T-shirts with the slogan “A New Era” and pennants in the national colours did brisk business.

Celebrations in Zimbabwe following Robert Mugabe's resignation (Photo: Evening Standard)
Celebrations in Zimbabwe following Robert Mugabe's resignation (Photo: Evening Standard)
(Photo: Evening Standard)
(Photo: Evening Standard)

Many supporters carried placards thanking Mnangagwa for his “resilience and endurance”.

Nicknamed “the Crocodile”, Mnangagwa was accused of leading brutal waves of repression against opponents of Zanu-PF and Mugabe.

“I am here to welcome my leader, our leader,” said Nicky Chihwa, a 28-year-old student.

“We hope he will be someone who will bring us change. We don’t really care who. We just wanted Mugabe to go.” .

Jennifer Mhlanga, a Zanu-PF MP and member of the party’s central committee, said it was important that Mnangagwa felt he had the party’s backing.

“He needs to know that all this work, to meet all these high expectations, will not simply fall on his shoulders alone. He has all these people with him. The Zanu-PF family will assist him, the family of Zimbabwe will assist him,” she said.

Zanu-PF officials have said that Mugabe and his wife, Grace, will be allowed to live in Zimbabwe.

Ziyambi Ziyambi, a Zanu-PF MP and former minister, said the couple had been guaranteed impunity from prosecution and other unspecified protections.

“There has been an agreement. They are elder statesmen [sic] and will be respected and given their dues. He was our president and he agreed to resign so he will enjoy the benefits of being an ex-president and his wife too. He is our icon,” Ziyambi said.

Mugabe, who ruled the country for 37 years, finally caved to popular and political pressure on Tuesday, hours after parliament launched proceedings to have him impeached.

He refused to leave office during eight days of uncertainty that began with a military takeover last week.

While there is widespread respect for Mugabe for his leadership during the brutal liberation wars of the 1960s and 70s, the first lady is viewed differently, with many calling for her trial and imprisonment.

Despite the guarantees offered by Mnangagwa and the military, the former leader may still prefer exile. Dubai, Singapore or Malaysia are considered the most likely destinations. The family is believed to have a substantial property portfolio overseas.

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