Zimbabwe’s new leader Emmerson Mnangagwa has been sworn in, beginning a new era for the troubled nation. Opposition leaders and diplomats were in attendance as Mr Mnangagwa addressed a crowd of tens of thousands.
The former justice and defence minister, who replaces Robert Mugabe after his resignation on Tuesday amid impeachment proceedings — will become the country’s second leader since independence from white minority rule in 1980.
Mr Mnangagwa, who is also known as The Crocodile, was a key Mugabe confidant for decades until they fell out because of the presidential ambitions of Mr Mugabe’s wife, Grace.
The ruling ZANU-PF party nominated Mr Mnangagwa to fill the vacancy left by Mr Mugabe on Wednesday, after he returned from exile.
Mr Mnangagwa will serve until the end of the presidential term next year. An election date has not yet been set.
Zimbabwe’s opposition backed Mugabe’s removal and now hopes for a bigger seat at the table to help determine the country’s future.
In the stadium, banners read “dawn of a new era” and “No to retribution,” even as human rights activists began to report worrying details of attacks on allies of the former first lady and their families.
Tendai Lesayo held a small Zimbabwean flag as she sold drinks from a cooler outside the stadium.
She said she would welcome a fresh start, saying “life now is impossible”.
As the inauguration crowds streamed by, Sharon Samuriwo sat on a ledge, watching.
She said she hoped Mr Mnangagwa would learn from the errors of his predecessor, though she acknowledged the path ahead for Zimbabwe is unknown.
Still, “after 37 years, we’ve got someone different”.
Despite his long association with the Government, Mr Mnangagwa has promised democracy.
In the end, Mr Mugabe was isolated and showing few of the political skills that kept him in power for 37 years.
Ruling party officials said Mr Magabe will remain in Zimbabwe with their promise that he is “safe” and his legacy as a “hero” will stand after his fight for an independent Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe’s state-run Herald newspaper reported Mr Mnangagwa has assured Mr Mugabe and his family of their “maximum security” as they remain in the country.
The report confirmed Mr Mugabe would not attend the ceremony because he “needed time to rest”.
Zimbabwe prepares for ‘new beginning’
Speaking ahead of the inauguration, Zimbabwe’s Minister for National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration Sekai Holland said today marked a new beginning.
“What has happened in the past, there are mechanisms in place that we have built, an infrastructure for peace, where we are going to systematically root out behaviours that we never want to see again in the future in the new Zimbabwe,” she told the ABC’s PM program.
Ms Holland said even though she was tortured under the Mugabe regime, she does not begrudge the former leader being given immunity from prosecution.
“Mugabe has been held to account,” she said.
“Can you see what has happened to him in the last few weeks? He did not stand aside, they kicked him out.
“Zimbabweans want to move on, and what we want to do is to move into the future with what the future has for Zimbabwe.”
‘Can a crocodile change its scales?’
Elsewhere in the capital, long lines formed outside banks, a common sight in a nation struggling with cash shortages and other severe economic problems that the new president will have to confront.
“Right now, nothing has really changed for me. I still cannot get my money from the bank,” said Amon Mutora, who had been in line since 6:00am.
Kelvin Fungai, a 19-year-old selling bananas from a cart, said “attending the inauguration will not bring food for my family”.
Mr Mnangagwa’s remarkable rise to power — from being sacked as vice president and fleeing the country to being named Zimbabwe’s next leader — was largely thanks to the military, which put Mugabe under house arrest, and ruling party lawmakers who introduced the impeachment proceedings.
It is widely expected Mr Mnangagwa will continue to rely on them.
“Can a crocodile change its scales? Everybody is asking that question. Certainly his first speech was a lost opportunity. He did not speak about the need for an inclusive government,” Piers Pigou, southern Africa expert for the International Crisis Group, said.
In 2008, Mr Mnangagwa was Mr Mugabe’s agent in an election marked by violence and allegations of vote-rigging, leading him to be placed under US sanctions that continue to this day.
He also helped broker the creation of a short-lived coalition government that brought in opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai as prime minister. In recent years, Mr Mnangagwa promoted himself as an experienced leader who would bring stability to Zimbabwe. AP/ABC