Harare, Zimbabwe – Emmerson Mnangagwa has been sworn in as president of Zimbabwe, marking the end of Robert Mugabe’s 37-year reign over the country.
Tens of thousands of cheering supporters on Friday streamed into the capital’s National Sports Stadium to witness Mnangagwa, a former vice president, take the oath of office.
Read a profile of Emmerson Mnangagwa here.
In his inaugural speech, Mnangagwa promised that elections would be held next year and vowed to work to advance the lives of all Zimbabweans.
“As we focus on recovering the economy, we must shed misbehaviours and acts of indiscipline which have characterised the past,” he said.
“Acts of corruption must stop.”
Tribute to Mugabe
Mnangagwa’s rise to power comes after weeks of drama in the wake of his dismissal by Mugabe that precipitated in a military takeover on November 15.
Mugabe, who initially resisted calls to step down, eventually stepped down on Tuesday.
According to reports, the 93-year-old former president has been granted immunity from prosecution and a benefits package as part of a negotiation deal.
Despite the dramatic events of the past weeks, Mnangagwa on Friday described him as his mentor and acknowledged his role in shaping Zimbabwe.
Saying the country had now entered a “second phase” since gaining independence in 1980, he also expressed a willingness to re-engage with the international community and stressed that foreign direct investment was key to resolving the country’s economic crisis.
His comments came amid warnings from the International Monetary Fund that “immediate action” was needed to address the country’s liquidity crisis.
Zimbabwe’s main stock market index, which had been on the rise over the past two months, slumped by 40 percent following the military’s takeover.
‘I put my faith in him’
The swearing-in ceremony was attended by a number of regional dignitaries and international diplomats, including Botswana’s President Ian Khama, who received a huge welcome following his repeated calls in recent days to Mugabe to step down.
Mozambican President Filipe Nyusi and his Zambian counterpart Edgar Lungu, as well as Zambia’s former President Kenneth Kaunda were also in attendance.
Also present was Rory Stewart, Africa minister for Britain, Zimbawe’s former colonial power.
Relations between the two countries soured at the turn of the millennium when Mugabe’s government sanctioned the seizure of white-owned colonial farms and was accused of a brutal intimidation of the opposition.
Before the ceremony, Stewart, the first British minister to visit Zimbabwe in two decades, described in a statement the change in leadership as “an absolutely critical moment” after Mugabe’s “ruinous rule”.
Many ordinary Zimbabweans seem optimistic about Mnangagwa’s presidency, hoping that a change in command could set the struggling nation on a better path and improve its poor economic situation.
“I put my faith in him,” said Tinashe Sihlangu.
The 23-year-old said the incoming leadership gave him hope in finally finding work.
“We’ve already seen from his work as vice president that he’s a man of action, so I’ve no doubt that he can turn things around and create more jobs for us young people,” he told Al Jazeera.
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