Zimbabwe Digital News, Independent Media and Agencies
Zimbabwe is entering a new era of democracy, incoming leader Emmerson Mnangagwa has said in his first public remarks since his return to the country.
The 75-year-old, whose sacking as vice president earlier in November triggered a military takeover, flew back to Zimbabwe on Wednesday, a day after longtime President Robert Mugabe resigned.
Mnangagwa fled to South Africa after his dismissal, citing threats to his life. He will be sworn in as president on Friday.
“Today, we are witnessing the beginning of a new and unfolding democracy,” Mnangagwa told thousands of jubilant supporters at the ruling ZANU-PF party headquarters in Harare.
“We want to grow our economy, we want jobs,” he said, amid roars of approval from the expectant crowd at Shake Shake Building.
“All patriotic Zimbabweans (should) come together, work together,” he said, at the same time thanking the masses who protested on Saturday, and the military which had played a role which eventually forced (now former) President Mugabe to resign.
Mnangagwa arrived from Johannesburg and went straight to the Zanu-PF headquarters where the crowd of several hundred had gathered to hear his first speech as president-in-waiting.
“The people have spoken. The voice of the people is the voice of God,” he told supporters. “Today we are witnessing the beginning of a new and unfolding democracy.”
Soldiers controlled admission to the concrete complex, but allowed hawkers to sell ice-creams, bananas and soft drinks. Outside, a makeshift stall selling Zanu-PF T-shirts with the slogan “A New Era” and pennants in the national colours did brisk business.
Many supporters carried placards thanking Mnangagwa for his “resilience and endurance”.
Who is Emmerson Mnangagwa?
His current popularity, though undoubtedly genuine, is clearly more dependent on the extraordinary events of the last week than any deep knowledge of the former spy chief.
Mnangawa’s exile in South Africa underlined the important role the powerful neighbour has played during the crisis. Though attempts at diplomatic mediation failed outright, Pretoria offered a crucial haven to Mnangagwa and close allies when they were forced to flee three weeks ago.
Car horns and celebrations greeted the motorcade carrying Mnangagwa as it passed through the Zimbabwean capital on the way to party headquarters, where one small portrait of Mugabe remained on a wall but two large images had been stowed in a corner.
There is still much residual respect for Mugabe, and many in Harare say he should be allowed to “rest” rather than face charges or enforced exile.
Zanu-PF officials have said that Mugabe and his wife, Grace, will be allowed to live in Zimbabwe.
Mugabe, who ruled the country with an iron grip for 37 years, finally caved to popular and political pressure on Tuesday, hours after parliament launched proceedings to impeach him. He had refused to leave office during eight days of uncertainty that began with a military takeover last week.
Meeting with President Zuma
Harare was quiet on Wednesday after a night of joyous celebration. Traffic was normal and many people were going to work. Mnangagwa, once one of Mugabe’s closest aides, can count on the support of the armed forces, the massed ranks of Zanu-PF followers across the country, and his own followers in the eastern part of Zimbabwe where he comes from.
The decision to sack Mnangagwa was a rare tactical error by Mugabe, who appears to have wanted to clear the way to power for his ambitious but unpopular wife and her G40 faction.
Mnangagwa told the crowd that he had met President Zuma for one-and-a-half hours, and also received messages from African statesmen and leaders who include former Tanzanian President Jikaya Kikwete, informing him that they were proud of how Zimbabweans had handled the political situation that saw Mugabe forced out of power.
He added that he would make his formal speech on Friday “around 10am”.
He said parliament speaker Jacob Mudenda had been “under intense pressure from the powers that were to derail this process (impeachment). “But the will of the people will always prevail,” he said to applause.
“I wish to commend the speaker for the manner in which he handled this process and defended the consItution. He was under under intense pressure from those that wanted to derail it,” he said.
Breaking into his mother tongue Karanga, Mnangagwa took a jibe at Mugabe and his cabal for failing to heed the warning from the people to step down. He chanted “pasi nemhandu!( down with the enemy), his popular war cry, derived from Zimbabwe’s struggle years in the 70s.
Mnangagwa also revealed that he had been in constant touch with the army chiefs, who kept him abreast of the developments back home.
“I appeal to all genuine, patriotic Zimbabweans to come together, work together to build a new Zimbabwe. No one is more important than the other, we are all Zimbabweans. It’s time to grow our economy, we want peace in our country, we want jobs, jobs, jobs,” promised Mnangangwa.
Sources said that a Zanu PF politburo meeting- Mnangagwa’s first as party leader- was scheduled for last night to map the way forward for Zimbabwe after the end of the traumatic Mugabe era, which lasted 37 years and brought the country’s economy to its knees.
But while Mnangagwa paid a courtesy call on Zuma, his party the ANC described the removal of Mugabe as a coup. Yesterday ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said Mugabe’s political demise was as a result an overthrow of a government engineered by the military- a coup- whatever the language used by his detractors.
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