Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is set to be inaugurated tomorrow, urged Zimbabwe to come together as he hailed the start of the country’s “new and unfolding democracy” in front of huge crowds in the capital.
The 75-year-old leader said he had only left Zimbabwe after being told by an aide about a plot to “eliminate him”, adding he had been “subjected to poisoning” in August.
Mnangagwa told the crowds: “I pledge myself to be your servant. I appeal to all genuine patriotic Zimbabweans to come together.
“We work together. No-one is more important than the other – we are all Zimbabweans
“We want to grow our economy. We want peace in our country. We want jobs, jobs, jobs in our country.”
He referred to “former president Robert Mugabe” and said: “The people have spoken. The voice of the people is the voice of God.”
Millions of people across the country have been celebrating the end of Mugabe’s presidency, which has breathed new hope into a country that has spent years suffering under his long and brutal leadership.
His 37-year presidency was brought to an abrupt end by a battle to succeed him, which pitted vice president Mnangagwa against Mugabe’s 52-year-old wife Grace.
Mnangagwa, popular with the military and dubbed ‘The Crocodile’ because of his reputation for stealth and ruthlessness, has spent several days in South Africa after he was ousted by Mugabe last week in the clearest move yet that he was paving the way for his wife Grace to succeed him.
Grace Mugabe, nicknamed ‘Gucci Grace’ for her love of expensive fashion, was widely despised and many Zimbabweans feared she would have continued Mugabe’s reign of terror.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s main opposition said it wanted incoming president Mnangagwa to dismantle all pillars of repression that helped sustain Mugabe’s 37 years in power.