A man blows a vuvuzela during the official inauguration ceremony of Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zanu-PF as the president of Zimbabwe at the National Sports Stadium in the capital, Harare, on Sunday. Picture: AFP
A man blows a vuvuzela during the official inauguration ceremony of Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zanu-PF as the president of Zimbabwe at the National Sports Stadium in the capital, Harare, on Sunday. Picture: AFP

Emmerson Mnangagwa was officially sworn in as president of Zimbabwe on Sunday after winning a bitterly contested election — the country’s first since the ousting of strongman Robert Mugabe.

Mnangagwa, whose victory in the July 30 polls was challenged by the main opposition, pledged to "protect and promote the rights of Zimbabweans" at an inauguration ceremony that was attended by thousands of supporters at a stadium in Harare.

"I, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, swear that as president of the republic of Zimbabwe I will be faithful to Zimbabwe [and] will obey, uphold and defend the constitution of Zimbabwe," he said to thunderous applause from a crowd that included several African heads of state.

"We must now focus on addressing the economic challenges facing our nation," he said. "We are all Zimbabweans; what unites us is greater than what could ever divide us."

Since independence in 1980, Zimbabwe has known only two presidents: Mugabe and Mnangagwa, who was appointed after Mugabe was forced out by the military in November 2017.

The newly minted leader, nicknamed "The Crocodile", on Sunday hailed his victory as a new "dawn" for Zimbabwe after years of repression and economic mismanagement, which left the country burdened by shattered public services, mass poverty and unemployment.

But his promises of reform and pledges to entice back investors were marred by the army opening fire on protesters, killing six shortly after the poll, as well as allegations of vote-rigging and a violent crackdown on opposition activists.

At the inauguration, Mnangagwa vowed to open a probe into the violence, which he called "regrettable and most unacceptable". Supporters, many wearing caps and T-shirts emblazoned with Mnangagwa’s image, filed into the stadium on Sunday under banners proclaiming "Celebrating a new Zimbabwe" and "Unity takes us forward, peace keeps us going."

Work together

"We were stressed with what was happening with the court procedures but we are happy now because everything has been finalised and we want people to unite and work together," said supporter Malvern Makoni of the opposition’s appeals over the vote. Other supporters also expressed desire for reform.

"Our country is now going to develop with President Mnangagwa now in charge.

"Mnangagwa is the right man to lead Zimbabwe to prosperity," said 41-year-old Blessing Muvirimi. "We want Zimbabweans to work together."

Mugabe did not attend the swearing-in but was represented by his daughter Bona, who has previously called Mnangagwa a "traitor" after her father’s ousting.

Zanu-PF’s Mnangagwa won the election with 50.8% of the vote — just enough to meet the 50% threshold to avoid a run-off against his main opposition challenger, Nelson Chamisa, who scored 44.3%.

International observers said the polls were largely free of the violence that characterised previous elections in Zimbabwe.

However, the EU earlier expressed concern that Mnangagwa had benefited from heavy state media coverage. Similarly, US monitors said on Sunday that Zimbabwe has "not yet demonstrated that it has established a tolerant, democratic culture".

The country’s top court on Friday dismissed Chamisa’s bid to have the results annulled on grounds they were rigged.

But the opposition leader has rejected that ruling and vowed to lead "peaceful protests".

"I have a legitimate claim that I am supposed to lead the people of Zimbabwe," Chamisa, head of the Movement for Democratic Change, said on Saturday.

"The court’s decision is not the people’s decision."

AFP

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