HARARE • Mr Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn in as Zimbabwe's president in front of thousands of cheering supporters at Harare's national stadium yesterday, marking the final chapter of a political drama that toppled his predecessor Robert Mugabe after a military takeover.
"I, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, swear that as the president of the republic of Zimbabwe I will be faithful to Zimbabwe and obey, uphold and defend the Constitution and all other laws of Zimbabwe," he said as he took the oath of office before the Chief Justice.
The 75-year-old, known as the "Crocodile", then received the chain and sash of office, and took salutes and pledges of allegiance from the nation's military and security chiefs.
"We are excited and expecting a lot from Mnangagwa. We have been under a dictatorship for a very long time," said Ms Sharon Mauyakufa, 23, referring to Mr Mugabe.
Mr Lenin Tongoona, 33, said: "I wanted to see for myself that Mugabe has really gone. He is the only president I've known."
A group of elderly women dressed in blue and white gyrated in time to a big band to wild applause from the crowds ahead of the swearing-in.
Snipers had taken up positions around the stadium amid tight security as jubilant Mnangagwa supporters streamed in, many dancing as music played. "We thank you, our soldier," said one banner in the sports ground. "The people have spoken," said another.
In a speech, Mr Mnangagwa said elections would go ahead next year and acknowledged that there had been "errors" under Mr Mugabe.
We are excited and expecting a lot from Mnangagwa. We have been under a dictatorship for a very long time.
MS SHARON MAUYAKUFA, referring to Mr Robert Mugabe.
He was hailed the "voice of the people" during a dramatic ascent to power. But some wonder whether a man who loyally served Mr Mugabe for decades can bring deep change to a ruling establishment accused of systematic abuses of human rights and disastrous economic policies.
In particular, they question his role in the so-called Gukurahundi massacres in Matabeleland in 1983, when an estimated 20,000 people were killed in a crackdown on Mr Mugabe's opponents by the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade.
Mr Mnangagwa was in charge of internal security then, but has denied any part in the atrocities.
The army's rough treatment of some Mugabe loyalists - former finance minister Ignatius Chombo was hospitalised yesterday because of beatings suffered in military custody, his lawyer said - has added to concerns about Mr Mnangagwa's true commitment to democracy.
He praised Mr Mugabe as "the father of the nation" during his address yesterday. "Let me at this stage pay tribute to one of the founding fathers of our nation, comrade Robert Gabriel Mugabe. Let us all accept and acknowledge his immense contribution to the building of our nation."
State-run media had earlier claimed that Mr Mugabe may even attend his successor's swearing-in - but later suggested that after he and Mr Mnangagwa talked about the inauguration, he agreed he "needed time to rest".
Mr Mnangagwa vowed during his inauguration speech to protect foreign investments in the country as he sought to lay out his economic credentials. "In this global world, no nation is, can, or need be an island. All foreign investments will be safe in Zimbabwe," he told the crowd.
He vowed to compensate farmers whose land was confiscated under a ruinous land redistribution programme initiated by Mr Mugabe.
"Acts of corruption must stop forthwith. Where these occur, swift justice must be served," he said, promising to "create jobs for our youth and reduce poverty for all".
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS