Zimbabwe’s former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa flew home on Wednesday to take power after the resignation of Robert Mugabe put an end to 37 years of authoritarian rule.
And in an address to ZANU-PF faithful, he promised a new dawn of democracy and jobs for the army of unemployed.
“The people have spoken. The voice of the people is the voice of God,” Mnangagwa told thousands of supporters who had gathered outside the ruling ZANU-PF party’s offices.
“Today we are witnessing the beginning of a new and unfolding democracy.”
“We want to grow our economy, we want jobs… all patriotic Zimbabweans (should) come together, work together,” he said.
Mnangagwa, known as the Crocodile, flew into Harare’s Manyame airbase from South Africa and met key members of the ruling ZANU-PF there before heading to the nerve-centre of power, State House, for a briefing, his aide Larry Mavhima told AFP.
He will be sworn in as president at an inauguration ceremony on Friday, officials said.
Mugabe’s iron grip ended on Tuesday in a shock announcement to parliament where MPs had convened to impeach the 93-year-old who dominated every aspect of Zimbabwean public life for decades.
He was last seen in public on Friday and gave a televised address on Sunday but neither he, nor his wife Grace, have been seen since, with their whereabouts unknown.
On the streets, the news that his long and often brutal leadership was over sparked wild celebrations which lasted late into the night, with crowds dancing and cheering ecstatically amid a cacophony of car horns.
Mnangagwa, 75, was sacked by the president on November 6 in a move that pushed infuriated army chiefs to intervene, triggering a series of events which led to Mugabe’s ouster.
– Excited crowds –
Ahead of his arrival, hundreds of people gathered outside ZANU-PF headquarters in Harare in the hope he would address them, some holding placards welcoming him home, while others wore shirts emblazoned with his likeness.
A former key Mugabe ally, Mnangagwa had fled the country after his dismissal, saying he would not return without guarantees of his safety.
His sacking was the result of an increasingly bitter succession battle with first lady Grace, who had been pushing to take over from her ageing husband.
In a highly symbolic scene shortly after his resignation, a man took down a portrait of Mugabe from a wall inside the building where MPs had assembled for the extraordinary session to impeach the defiant president.
Another person replaced it with an image of the ousted vice president.
Mnangagwa is a political veteran long-time party loyalist who has served in a host of different cabinet positions since independence in 1980 and who has close ties with the military.