Zimbabwe’s new president Emmerson Mnangagwa has been sworn in, in front of a cheering crowd of tens of thousands of people.
He is only the second president of Zimbabwe since it gained independence in 1980 — and people are hopeful that he could bring in a new era of democracy.
Mnangagwa pledged to protect the interests of “all citizens” and said he was “deeply humbled” by the role, reported the BBC.
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. Help me God. pic.twitter.com/394NJXP0Ht— Emmerson D. Mnangagwa (@HonMnangagwa) November 24, 2017
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An estimated 70,000 people packed the stands of the National Sports Stadium in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, singing, dancing, and waving banners reading “Dawn of a new era” and “No to retribution.”
“The task at hand is that of rebuilding our country,” Mnangagwa told the crowd. “I am required to serve our country as the president of all citizens regardless of colour, creed, religion, tribe, totem, or political affiliation.”
He pledged to be “faithful to Zimbabwe” and to “protect and promote the rights and people of Zimbabwe.”
Mnangagwa earned a particularly loud cheer from the crowd when he announced the “free and fair elections” would be held next year as planned, and that “people’s voices would be heard.”
But the response to his tribute to his predecessor Robert Mugabe was muted.
Mugabe fired the 75-year-old former vice president Mnangagwa nearly three weeks ago, which triggered a military takeover that led to Mugabe’s resignation this week — after 37 years of authoritarian rule.
The former president was not present at Friday’s ceremony, with the official line being that the 93-year-old needed to rest.
I am so emotional. I never thought I would see this day. Mugabe has resigned in my lifetime. This is a stepping stone towards the Zimbabwe we want. It won't be easy. #Zimbabwe— Trevor Ncube (@TrevorNcube) November 21, 2017
Mugabe announced his resignation in a letter delivered to Zimbabwe’s Parliament speaker, Jacob Mudenda.
For many it was cause for celebration. His nearly four decades in power were characterised by stagnant economic growth and rampant corruption.
He was initially hailed as an independence leader, in a similar vein to South African President Nelson Mandela, but his tenure quickly shifted towards despotism, economic mismanagement, and coercive leadership.
Mnangagwa — who is known as “the Crocodile”, for his reputation for ruthless cunning — does have his critics however, and concerns have been raised that his appointment could be bad news for human rights in the country.
Some claim he may have played a role in the 1983 massacres in Matabeleland, during which an estimated 20,000 people were killed in a crackdown on people who opposed Mugabe. Mnangagwa has denied any part in the killings.
In Zimbabwe, more than 20% of the population lives on less than $2 per day, according to the World Bank, and the country’s healthcare system has seen an “unprecedented deterioration of health care infrastructure, loss of experienced health sector personnel, and a drastic decline in the quality of health services available for the population.”
Global Citizen campaigns on the Global Goals for Sustainable Development, which include goal 16: peace, justice, and strong institutions — which were tenuous in Mugabe’s Zimbabwe. You can join us by taking action here.