Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn in as Zimbabwe’s president on Friday, marking the final chapter of a political drama that toppled his predecessor Robert Mugabe after a military takeover.
Mnangagwa, until recently one of Mugabe’s closest allies, took the oath of office at the national sports stadium on the outskirts of Harare to an explosion of cheering from the full-to-capacity crowd.
“I Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa swear that as the president of the Republic of Zimbabwe I will be faithful to Zimbabwe and obey, uphold and defend the constitution and all other laws of Zimbabwe,” he said as he took the oath of office before the chief justice.
He then received the chain and sash of office and took salutes and pledges of allegiance from the country’s military and security chiefs.
Mnangagwa, 75, had said this week that Zimbabweans were witnessing “a new and unfolding full democracy”, although critics say he is a hardliner in the ruling ZANU-PF who gained power in a de facto military coup.
He is known as “The Crocodile” for his ruthlessness and is accused of overseeing ethnic massacres and political violence.
“We are excited and expecting a lot from Mnangagwa. We have been under a dictatorship for a very long time,” 23-year-old Sharon Mauyakufa said, referring to Mugabe.
The 93-year-old former president, who ruled the southern African country for 37 autocratic years, was ousted when the military intervened after he had sacked Mnangagwa as vice president on November 6.
“We thank you our soldier,” said one banner on the sports ground. “The people have spoken,” said another.
A group of elderly women dressed in blue and white gyrated in time to a big band to wild applause from the crowds ahead of the swearing in.
Snipers had taken up positions around the stadium amid tight security as jubilant Mnangagwa supporters streamed in, many dancing as music played.