HARARE – Zimbabwe’s former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose recent ousting prompted a military takeover in the south African nation, was sworn in as president on Friday, triggering an uncertain new phase in the country’s history following the 37-year rule of Robert Mugabe.
The swearing-in ceremony of Mnangagwa, a high-profile member of the ruling ZANU-PF party, took place at a stadium in the country’s capital, Harare.
“I, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, swear that as president of the Republic of Zimbabwe I will be faithful to Zimbabwe and obey, uphold and defend the constitution and all of the laws of Zimbabwe,” Mnangagwa said to a cheering crowd.
“I will protect and promote the rights of the people of Zimbabwe, and discharge my duties with all my strength, the best of my knowledge and ability,” he added.
The ceremony was attended by international representatives such as South African minister of communications and Botswana’s president.
The 93-year-old Mugabe, however, did not attend Mnangagwa’s inauguration because he “needed time to rest after the hectic events of the week-and-a-half that has gone by,” reported state-run newspaper the Herald.
In his first speech after being sworn in, Mnangagwa said he would serve everyone and all who consider Zimbabwe their home, regardless of race, religion, or political affiliation, and promised that presidential elections will be held next year as planned.
“The voice of the people is the voice of God,” he said, urging people to maintain unity as Zimbabwe faces great challenges.
Not wanting to the sow seeds of divisiveness Mnangagwa praised the legacy of his predecessor.
Mnangagwa also encouraged collaboration with the international community, including countries which had disagreements with Zimbabwe before, and ensured that foreign investments would be protected.
Tensions erupted in Zimbabwe when Mugabe fired Mnangagwa in an apparent bid to clear the path for Mugabe’s wife, Grace, to take the reins of power in Zimbabwe.
Mnangagwa, a war veteran who had been a powerful figure within ZANU-PF, was seen as the most likely successor to Mugabe, in charge since 1980.
Zimbabwe is one of the most impoverished nations in the region and is subject to hyper-inflation rates that have crippled the country’s economy.