New President Emmerson Mnangagwa laid out a grand vision on Friday to revitalise Zimbabwe’s ravaged economy and vowed to rule on behalf of all the country’s citizens.
Sworn in days after the overthrow of Robert Mugabe, the 75-year-old former security chief promised to guarantee the rights of foreign investors and to re-engage with the West, and said elections would go ahead next year as scheduled.
In a 30-minute speech to tens of thousands of supporters in Harare’s national stadium, Mnangagwa extended an olive branch to opponents, apparently aiming to bridge the ethnic and political divides exploited by his predecessor during his 37 years in charge.
“I intend, nay, am required, to serve our country as the president of all citizens, regardless of colour, creed, religion, tribe or political affiliation,” he said, in a speech that also hailed the voice of the people as the “voice of god”.
Behind the rhetoric, some Zimbabweans wonder whether a man who loyally served Mugabe for decades can bring change to a ruling establishment accused of systematic human rights abuses and disastrous economic policies.
He made clear that the land reforms that sparked the violent seizure of thousands of white-owned farms from 2000 would not be reversed, but promised that those who lost property would receive compensation.
To some political opponents, the speech was a welcome change from the habitual belligerence of Mugabe and appeared to be drawing on Mnangagwa’s knowledge and understanding of China as a model for running an economy.