Zimbabwe's incoming leader heralds new era to cheering crowds

Thursday, 23 November 2017, 09:34:59 AM. Zimbabwe's incoming leader Emmerson Mnangagwa declares a new era of democracy.

Mr Mnangagwa says Zimbabwe is witnessing a Video: Mr Mnangagwa says Zimbabwe is witnessing a "new and unfolding democracy" (Photo: Reuters/Mike Hutchings) (ABC News)

Zimbabwe's former vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is due to be sworn in to replace Robert Mugabe as president on Friday, tells cheering crowds in Harare the country is entering a new stage of democracy.

"The people have spoken. The voice of the people is the voice of God," Mr Mnangagwa — who is also known as The Crocodile — told thousands of supporters who had gathered outside the ruling ZANU-PF party's offices.

"Today we are witnessing the beginning of a new and unfolding democracy."

Mr Mugabe resigned as Zimbabwe's president on Tuesday, a week after the army and his former political allies moved to end four decades of rule by a man once feted as an independence hero who became feared as a despot.

Yesterday, the ruling ZANU-PF party nominated Mr Mnangagwa to fill the vacancy left by Mr Mugabe and he will be sworn in on Friday, according to government officials.

Mr Mugabe sacked Mr Mnangagwa as vice-president two weeks ago to smooth a path to the succession for his wife Grace which instead sparked a chain of events that led to his demise — Mr Mnangagwa fled for his own safety and the military seized control, shattering Mr Mugabe's authority.

Mr Mnangagwa returned to Zimbabwe overnight calling on Zimbabweans to unite to rebuild the country.

"I appeal to all genuine people of Zimbabwe to come together," Mr Mnangagwa said.

"We are all Zimbabweans … we want to grow our economy, we need peace in our country and jobs, jobs, jobs."

Mr Mugabe held on even after being sacked as the head of his own party and being placed under house arrest by the military — he finally stepped down as officials began an impeachment process.

'This is not the change I expected': Residents

Supporters of Mr Mnangagwa — known as The Crocodile — cheer in Harare. (Photo: AP/Ben Curtis) Video: Supporters of Mr Mnangagwa — known as The Crocodile — cheer in Harare. (Photo: AP/Ben Curtis) (ABC News)

People danced in the streets and some brandished posters of Mr Mnangagwa and army chief General Constantino Chiwenga, who led the takeover.

The demise of Mr Mugabe leaves Zimbabwe facing a different situation to other African countries where veteran leaders have been toppled in popular uprisings or through elections.

By contrast, the army has engineered Mr Mnangagwa's path to power and for decades he was a faithful lieutenant of Mr Mugabe and member of his elite. He was also in charge of internal security when rights groups say 20,000 civilians were killed in the 1980s.

Beverley O'Connor speaks to Martin Plaut, co-author of the biography Robert Mugabe Video: Beverley O'Connor speaks to Martin Plaut, co-author of the biography Robert Mugabe (The World)

"Mugabe has gone but I don't see Mnangagwa doing anything different from that old man," said one man.

"This is not the change I expected but let us give him time."

Zimbabwe's next leader faces the task of restoring the country's lost fortunes. Alleged human rights abuses and flawed elections prompted many Western countries to impose sanctions in the early 2000s that hurt the economy.

Chinese investment softened the blow but the population of 13 million remains mainly poor and faces currency shortages and high unemployment — staging clean elections next year will be key to winning fresh investment.

Is Zimbabwe moving from one tyrant to the next?

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe's wife Grace talks to Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa. Photo: Grace Mugabe has been expelled from ZANU-PF, while Emmerson Mnangagwa is set to become president. (Reuters: Philimon Bulawayo, file)

Mr Mnangagwa is almost certain to win that election but it would be a victory for the country's "old elites" with the aid of China, said Guenther Nooke, German Chancellor Angela Merkel's personal representative for Africa.

"He will manage to get elected using fear or many tricks, and then we'll have a succession from one tyrant to the next," Mr Nooke said.

China's foreign ministry said it respected Mr Mugabe's decision to resign.

Mr Mugabe leaves a contradictory legacy. He is among the last of a generation of African leaders who led their countries to independence and then ruled. That group includes Kwame Nkrumah in Ghana, Jomo Kenyatta in Kenya, Felix Houphouet-Boigny in Ivory Coast and Nelson Mandela in South Africa.

He also presided over a steep decline in Zimbabwe's economy and stifled the country's democracy en route to winning a series of elections. His government is accused by the opposition and human rights groups of persecuting and killing opponents.

The forced takeover of white-owned farms from around 2000 aimed to bolster his popular support but crippled foreign exchange earnings from agriculture and led to a period of hyperinflation.

"President Mugabe will be remembered as a fearless pan-Africanist liberation fighter and the father of the independent Zimbabwean nation," the chairperson of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said in a statement.

Zimbabweans celebrate outside Parliament after Robert Mugabe resignation (Image: AP/Ben Curtis) Video: Zimbabweans celebrate outside Parliament after Robert Mugabe resignation (Image: AP/Ben Curtis) (ABC News)

Reuters/ABC

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