History was made today when Emmerson Mnangagwa (75) was sworn in as Zimbabwe’s interim president at the National Sports Stadium on the outskirts of Harare this morning.
Mnangagwa’s leadership has been hailed as the beginning of a “new era”. Robert Mugabe fired him just two weeks ago, when he held the position as vice-president of the country, in order to make way for his wife, Grace, to take over as president of Zimbabwe. Mnangagwa fled to South Africa, but returned home on Wednesday after his safety was guaranteed.
About 60 000 citizens descended upon the stadium, to witness the incoming president officially take over from Mugabe, who ruled over Zimbabwe for 37 years.
Mnangagwa had been an ally to Mugabe over the years and his firing spurred political protests calling for Mugabe’s resignation.
On Tuesday, Mugabe finally tendered his resignation, and Zimbabweans began celebrations that continued throughout the week.
“I will devote myself to the wellbeing of Zimbabwe and its people. So help me God,” Mnangagwa said today, moments before he took his oath of office, led by Chief Justice Luke Malaba. The crowd broke into rapturous applause as he officially signed his oath of office as the president of Zimbabwe.
In attendance were several African leaders including Zambian president Edgar Lungu and Botswana’s president Ian Khama. Khama had on Monday released a statement via Twitter, calling for Mugabe to tender his resignation.
Jacob Zuma was unable to attend the morning’s event because he was hosting Angola’s president João Manuel Lourenço on his first state visit of to South Africa.
But Zuma congratulated Mnangagwa and wished him well during their meeting in Pretoria on Wednesday, ahead of Mnangagwa’s return to Harare.
Zuma has also extended his good wishes to Mugabe and emphasised that his contribution to the liberation of the southern African region and the decolonisation of the continent in general would “always be acknowledged and celebrated”.
Mugabe was nowhere to be seen during the morning’s celebrations.
Before the formalities began, the crowds were entertained by local singer Josh Praizah, who performed a local favourite, Kutonga Kerano.
Members of the crowd could be seen dancing and singing along, as they celebrated what was hoped to be the beginning of a prosperous future for the nation.
Mnangagwa was joined by his wife, the now first lady of the country, Auxilia, soon after he was sworn in. They shared a kiss, much to the delight of the crowd who cheered them on.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC) this morning released a statement emphasising its support for Mnangagwa.
The community’s executive secretary, Stergomena Lawrence Tax, said that “SADC stands ready to work closely with the incoming president, his government and the people of Zimbabwe”.
Tax also emphasised the decision for Mugabe to resign as “a clear demonstration of true statesmanship”.
“Since its formation, SADC has benefited and valued the contribution of President Mugabe, as a true champion of Pan-Africanism, and in the promotion of regional cooperation, development and integration,” he said.
Mugabe had expressed his wish to remain in Zimbabwe with his wife Grace.
“As a liberation icon, President Mugabe offered a message of hope and unity to millions of his compatriots when he became the first black prime minister of the newly independent Zimbabwe on April 18 1980,” Tax said.
In his address to the nation, Mnangagwa delivered a strong speech, in which he paid tribute to Mugabe. “Let’s cherish former President Mugabe’s contribution to the liberation struggle,” he said.
He also thanked the ruling party, Zanu-PF, for choosing him to lead the country forward.
“Let’s let bygones be bygones as we embrace each other. Let’s work together to improve our nation … let’s accept our challenges in our politics,” he appealed.
“We subscribe to the principle where all nations are equal … Zimbabweans who sought greener pastures should come back; we should improve our infrastructure,” he said.
Mnangagwa emphasised the urgency of economic reform for the country, telling its civil servants that it would not be “business as usual”.
“A new culture must be built for economic recovery … The government will ensure that its domestic debt is serviced,” he said.
The people of Zimbabwe anticipate the inauguration ceremony of Zimbabwe's former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa as president in Harare. November 24 2017. Reuters/Mike Hutchings
Military officers walk past people waiting in queue ahead of the inauguration ceremony to swear in Zimbabwe's former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa as president in Harare. Picture: Reuters/ Siphiwe Sibeko
Supporters hold up a poster of former vice-president of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, as they wait for the inauguration ceremony to swear him in as president. November 24 2017. Picture: Reuters/Mike Hutchings
Zimbabwe's former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa arrives ahead of his inauguration ceremony in Harare, Zimbabwe. Picture: Reuters/ Siphiwe Sibeko
Emmerson Mnangagwa, centre, and his wife Auxillia, center-right, arrive at the presidential inauguration ceremony in the capital Harare, Zimbabwe, Friday, November 24 2017. Mnangagwa is being sworn in as Zimbabwe's president after Robert Mugabe resigned on Tuesday, ending his 37-year rule. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Zimbabwe army chief General Constantino Chiwenga arrives at the inauguration ceremony to swear in Zimbabwe's former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa. November 24 2017. Picture: Reuters/Mike Hutchings
Emmerson Mnangagwa surrounded by Zimbabwean officials after he is sworn in as president in Harare. November 24 2017. Picture: Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko
Emmerson Mnangagwa is sworn in as Zimbabwe's president in Harare, Zimbabwe. November 24 2017. Picture: Reuters/Mike Hutchings