Emmerson Mnangagwa has been welcomed by tens of thousands of cheers this morning ahead of being sworn in as the new president of Zimbabwe.
He will become the country’s second leader since independence from white minority rule in 1980.
After arriving at the National Sports Stadium for his inauguration, Mnangagwa raised his fist – causing the crowd to jump to its feet, shouting and singing.
Banners read ‘Dawn of a new era’ and ‘No to retribution’, even as human rights activists began to report worrying details of attacks on close allies of the former first lady and their families.
Mnangagwa has warned against ‘vengeful retribution’.
Mnangagwa, who was fired earlier this month as vice president, will lead after the resignation of 93-year-old Robert Mugabe, who succumbed to pressure to quit from the military, the ruling party and massive demonstrations.
The new leader, a former justice and defense minister, was a key Mugabe confidant for decades until they fell out because of the presidential ambitions of Mugabe’s wife, Grace.
Despite his long association with the government that has presided over Zimbabwe’s decline, including economic collapse and human rights abuses, Mnangagwa has promised democracy and reached out to other countries for help.
Mugabe was the world’s oldest head of state when he quit Tuesday amid impeachment proceedings.
In the end, he was isolated and showing few of the political skills that kept him in power for 37 years and made him a prominent but polarising figure on the world stage.
Mugabe will not attend today’s swearing-in, and ruling party officials have said he will remain in Zimbabwe with their promise that he is ‘safe’ and his legacy as a ‘hero’ will stand after his fight for an independent Zimbabwe.
The country’s state-run Herald newspaper reported that Mnangagwa has assured Mugabe and his family of their ‘maximum security’.
The report says they agreed Mugabe would not attend Friday because he ‘needed time to rest’.
At the stadium today, Tendai Lesayo held a small Zimbabwean flag as she sold drinks from a cooler outside.
She said she would welcome a fresh start, saying ‘life now is impossible’.
Elsewhere in the capital, long lines formed outside banks, a common sight in a nation struggling with cash shortages and other severe economic problems that the new president will have to confront.