Zimbabwe is entering a new era of democracy, incoming leader Emmerson Mnangagwa has said in his first public remarks since his return to the country.
The 75-year-old, whose sacking as vice president earlier in November triggered a military takeover, flew back to Zimbabwe on Wednesday, a day after longtime President Robert Mugabe stepped down.
Mnangagwa fled to South Africa after his dismissal, citing threats to his life.
He will be sworn in as president on Friday.
“Today, we are witnessing the beginning of a new and unfolding democracy,” Mnangagwa told thousands of jubilant supporters at the headquarters of the ruling ZANU-PF party in the capital, Harare.
“We want to grow our economy; we want jobs,” he added.
“All patriotic Zimbabweans (should) come together, work together.”
Al Jazeera’s Fahmida Miller, reporting from the gathering at the ZANU-PF headquarters, said Mnangagwa’s speech was “very much about Zimbabwean people”.
“He used this opportunity to talk to his supporters and the people who are happy with the overthrowing of Mugabe and emphasise the role they played in these developments”.
“He also talked about jobs and peace, very much what people want to hear.”
Praise for the army
In a surprise move, Zimbabwe’s military seized power on November 15, intervening in party politics over Mugabe’s succession.
The army said it wanted to “target criminals” around the 93-year-old who were leading the ruling ZANU-PF party and state astray.
Both the army and the influential war veterans’ association were afraid Mugabe might hand power to his wife, Grace, seen as Mnangagwa’s main opponent in ZANU-PF’s succession battle.
In a rare sign of solidarity between the people and the army, which has often been a pillar of support for Mugabe’s rule, tens of thousands of Zimbabweans took to the streets on Saturday to express support for the military’s operation.
During his speech, Mnangagwa said he had been in constant communication with the army chiefs throughout the period between his firing by Mugabe on November 6 and his return to Zimbabwe.
Praising General Constantino Chiwenga, he said the armed forces “have been able to manage this process very peacefully.”