Mnangagwa sworn in as Zimbabwe president




Emmerson Mnangagwa became Zimbabwe's third president since independence [Mike Hutchings/Reuters]

Harare, Zimbabwe – Emmerson Mnangagwa has been sworn in as president of Zimbabwe, marking the end of Robert Mugabe’s 37-year reign over the country.

Tens of thousands of people on Friday streamed into the capital’s National Sports Stadium to witness Mnangagwa, a former vice president, take the oath of office.

Read a profile of Emmerson Mnangagwa here.

Many ordinary Zimbabweans seem optimistic about Mnangagwa’s presidency, hoping that a change in command could set the struggling nation on a better path and improve its poor economic situation.

“I put my faith in him,” said Tinashe Sihlangu.

The 23-year-old said the incoming leadership gave him hope in finally finding work.

“We’ve already seen from his work as vice president that he’s a man of action, so I’ve no doubt that he can turn things around and create more jobs for us young people,” he told Al Jazeera.

Economic concerns

Mnangagwa’s rise to power comes after weeks of drama in the wake of his dismissal by Mugabe that precipitated in a military takeover of the country on November 15.

Mugabe, who initially resisted calls to step down, stepped down on Tuesday.

According to reports, the 93-year-old former president has been granted immunity from prosecution and a benefits package as part of a negotiation deal.

Mnangagwa, who had fled to South Africa after his firing on November 6, promised job creation and economic stability during his first speech upon returning to the country.

“We want to grow our economy; we want jobs,” he saidon Wednesday, cheered on by thousands of enthusiastic supporters outside the headquarters of the ruling ZANU-PF party.

Mnangagwa supporters gathered at Manyame airbase on Wednesday to welcome him back from South Africa [Tendai Marima/Al Jazeera]

His pledge came amid warnings from the International Monetary Fund that “immediate action” was needed to address the current liquidity crisis.

Zimbabwe’s main stockmarket index, which had been on the rise over the past two months, slumped by 40 percent following the military’s takeover.

Foreign reaction

Despite the dramatic events surrounding Mugabe’s resignation, regional and international bodies have welcomed the longtime ruler’s decision to step down.

A statement issued by the African Union commission chairperson Moussa Faki Mahamat hailed the relatively peaceful transfer of power from the nonagenarian to his deputy.

“President Mugabe’s decision to resign paves the way for a transition process, owned and led by the sovereign people of Zimbabwe,” he said.

Similarly, Ian Khama, the president of Botswana and an outspoken critic of the former president, expressed optimism for the country in a post-Mugabe era.

“Zimbabwe has got the potential of being an economic powerhouse,” he said.

“Even though it took Mugabe 37 years to bring it down to chaos, it will not take that long to bring it back up again because there is so much potential the people are so innovative and hardworking.”

Regional dignitaries and international diplomats are expected to attend Mnangagwa’s swearing-in ceremony.

Rory Stewart, the UK’s Africa minister, who will also be in attendance, described in a statement the change in leadership as “an absolutely critical moment” after Mugabe’s “ruinous rule” of the former British colony.