Harare – Zimbabwe’s newly sworn-in President Emmerson Mnangagwa vowed during his inauguration speech on Friday that he will work to improve the economy to reduce unemployment and return the country to prosperity.
“Our economic policy will be directed for job, job, job creation,” said Mnangagwa to cheers from the crowd of 60 000. Zimbabwe is currently plagued with an unemployment rate estimated to be 80%.
“We must work together. You, me, all of us who make up this nation,” he said. He urged the millions of Zimbabweans who have left the country to return to help rebuild the economy.
“I must hit the ground running,” said Mnangagwa, emphasising that Zimbabwe’s economic problems must be addressed immediately.
Zimbabwe’s land redistribution which saw land seized from white farmers and given to black Zimbabweans will not be reversed, he said.
“The rest of the world must understand that our land reform policies were inevitable. The principle of nationalisation of our land cannot be challenged or reversed,” he said.
However, Mnangagwa said his incoming government will be “committed to compensating farmers from whom land was taken”. He said a land commission would be formed to make sure that properties are farmed productively.
“All foreign investment will be safe in Zimbabwe,” said Mnangagwa, addressing fears following moves by former leader Robert Mugabe to nationalise the country’s lucrative resources such as diamonds, platinum, gold and chrome.
Mnangagwa also said he will tackle corruption that has grown in Zimbabwe.
He said elections will be held next year and said he will work to change Zimbabwe’s political climate which he characterised as “poisonous, rancorous and polarised.”
A smiling Mnangagwa greeted a stadium crowd of tens of thousands with a raised fist. The military, fresh from putting Mugabe under house arrest just days ago, quickly swore its loyalty to the new leader.
Mnangagwa, a former justice and defence minister, was a key Mugabe confidante for decades until they fell out over the presidential ambitions of Mugabe’s wife, Grace.
Mugabe, one of Africa’s last remaining liberation leaders, quit as impeachment proceedings began.
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. He had led since Zimbabwe’s independence from white minority rule in 1980.
Mugabe did not attend Friday’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.
Zimbabwe’s state-run Herald newspaper reported that Mnangagwa assured Mugabe and his family of their “maximum security”. The report said the two men agreed Mugabe would not attend on Friday because he “needed time to rest”.
‘Nothing has changed’
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.
“Right now, nothing has really changed for me. I still cannot get my money from the bank,” said Amon Mutora, who had been in line since 06:00.
“Attending the inauguration will not bring food for my family,” said Kelvin Fungai, a 19-year-old selling bananas from a cart. Many young people are well-educated but jobless, reduced to street vending to survive. Others have left the country.
Elsewhere, there were signs of hope amid the uncertainty. Black market rates for cash have tumbled since Mugabe left office.
Before he stepped down, one had to deposit $170 into a black market dealer’s bank account to get $100 cash. On Friday, $100 cash was selling for between $140 and $150.
As the inauguration crowds streamed by, Sharon Samuriwo sat on a ledge, watching. She said she hoped Mnangagwa would learn from the errors of his predecessor, and she acknowledged that the path ahead for Zimbabwe is unknown.
Still, “after 37 years, we’ve got someone different”.