Skip to main content
the globe in zimbabwe

Emmerson Mnangagwa, centre, and his wife Auxillia, right, arrive at the presidential inauguration ceremony in the capital Harare, Zimbabwe, Friday, Nov. 24, 2017.Ben Curtis/The Associated Press

After 37 years of Robert Mugabe's autocratic rule, Zimbabwe's new president Emmerson Mnangagwa has taken office with an inaugural speech in which he vowed to revive the battered economy, attract foreign investment and provide compensation to the thousands of farmers whose land was seized.

Mr. Mnangagwa took the oath of office on Friday in front of a cheering crowd of 60,000 people at a sports stadium in Harare. He is replacing his longtime comrade in the ruling party, Mr. Mugabe, who resigned on Tuesday under heavy pressure after a military coup.

The stadium was filled with music, dancing and singing as Zimbabweans celebrated the first change of leadership since the country's liberation from white-minority rule in 1980.

Read also: Student protest crackdown shows Zimbabwe's military still firmly in charge

"This is a new dawn, a new era," state broadcaster ZBC told a national audience who watched the ceremony.

Mr. Mnangagwa's speech was heavy on economic promises, but he made no mention of democratic reforms in a country where elections have been rigged and opponents have been terrorized.

He promised that the scheduled 2018 election will go ahead as planned, even though some politicians had suggested that the election could be delayed to allow reforms to make the electoral system freer and fairer.

He pledged to create jobs, tackle corruption and bring back the foreign investors who have left the country because of policies requiring companies to be majority-owned by Zimbabweans.

Mr. Mnangagwe said the land reform program, in which thousands of white commercial farmers had their land seized, is irreversible. But he promised to make the farmland more productive, and he promised compensation for farmers who lost their land.

He said his government wants to "re-engage" with the international community, and he asked Western nations to reconsider their sanctions against Zimbabwe.

But he showed no interest in providing justice for the victims of the many abuses of the Mugabe government in the past. "Let bygones be bygones," he said.

He even paid tribute to Mr. Mugabe as his "mentor" and a "founding father" of the nation.

Many Zimbabweans are hoping that the new president will loosen the official repression and allow greater democracy.

But the reality is that Mr. Mnangagwa was installed in office as a direct result of a military coup, even if the celebrations and huge demonstrations in the streets showed that most Zimbabweans were desperate for change. He is likely to remain beholden to his military allies.

There was a disturbing sign of military abuses on Friday when reports emerged that the military had assaulted and blindfolded Zimbabwe's finance minister, Ignatius Chombo, a leading member of a ruling-party faction that had feuded with Mr. Mnangagwa.

Mr. Chombo was arrested in the early hours of the military coup last week. His lawyer, Lovemore Madhuku, told the Reuters news agency that Mr. Chombo was admitted to hospital on Friday with injuries from beatings that he received in military custody. He said Mr. Chombo was blindfolded through out his week in custody. Soldiers accused the finance minister of corruption, yet he was released without any charges against him.

Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn in on Friday as president of Zimbabwe in front of thousands of cheering supporters at Harare's national stadium, bringing the final curtain down on the 37-year rule of Robert Mugabe.