HARARE • Zimbabwe's former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa will be sworn in as president tomorrow, marking a new era for a country dominated by Mr Robert Mugabe, whose swift downfall this week ended nearly four decades in power.
The ruling Zanu-PF party has nominated Mr Mnangagwa to fill the vacancy left by Mr Mugabe on Tuesday and he will be sworn in tomorrow, said Mr Jacob Mudenda, the Speaker of Parliament.
Mr Mugabe sacked Mr Mnangagwa as vice-president two weeks ago to smooth a path to succession for his wife Grace, who at 52 is much younger than the 93-year-old leader. Mr Mnangagwa fled for his own safety and the military seized control, shattering Mr Mugabe's authority.
Mr Mugabe held on for a week, with Zanu-PF and others urging him to resign. He finally stepped down on Tuesday, moments after Parliament began an impeachment process. People danced in the streets and some brandished posters of Mr Mnangagwa and army chief Constantino Chiwenga, who led the takeover.
Mr Mnangagwa was due to land at Manyame Airbase in Harare at 6pm (midnight Singapore time) yesterday, state broadcaster ZBC said.
"I am advised that the swearing-in ceremony is planned for Friday," Mr Mudenda said. Mr Mnangagwa issued a statement from hiding on Tuesday calling on Zimbabweans to unite to rebuild the country.
Other African countries have seen veteran leaders ousted by popular uprisings or in elections.
By contrast, the military has ushered Mr Mnangagwa to the threshold of power. For decades, he was a faithful ally of Mr Mugabe in charge of internal security in the mid-1980s, when rights groups say 20,000 civilians were killed.
Zimbabwe's next leader faces the task of restoring the country's fortunes. Alleged human rights abuses and flawed elections prompted many Western countries to impose sanctions in the early 2000s that hurt the economy.
Chinese investment softened the blow, but the population of 16 million remains mainly poor, and faces currency shortages and high unemployment.
Staging clean elections next year will be key to winning fresh investment.
Mr Mnangagwa is almost certain to win that election, but it would be a victory for the country's "old elites" with the aid of China, said Mr Guenther Nooke, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's personal representative for Africa.
"He will manage to get elected using fear or many tricks, and then we will have a succession from one tyrant to the next," Mr Nooke told broadcaster SWR2.
Mr Mugabe leaves a complex legacy. He is among the last of a generation of African leaders who led their countries to independence, and then ruled. But he also presided over a steep decline in Zimbabwe's economy, won a series of elections after stifling the opposition, and he stands accused of persecuting opponents.
The forced takeover of white-owned farms from around 2000 crippled foreign exchange earnings from agriculture and led to a period of hyperinflation.
"President Mugabe will be remembered as a fearless pan-Africanist liberation fighter and the father of the independent Zimbabwean nation," African Union Commission chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat said in a statement.
Many Zimbabweans also remain hostile to Mr Mnangagwa because of his human rights record.
"The dark past is not going to disappear. They will be following him around like a piece of chewing gum on his shoe," International Crisis Group's southern Africa senior consultant Piers Pigou said.