Emmerson Mnangagwa earned the name “The Crocodile” as the longtime vice president for his predecessor, who announced his resignation Tuesday after a military takeover confined him to his home and set the stage for political change in the country he dominated for 37 years.
Mnangagwa, 75, was sworn in as president on Friday in Harare to a crowd of supporters who had signs with slogans such as “the people have spoken.”
Though massive demonstrations called for Mugabe’s ouster as he delayed stepping down, the fall of the 93-year-old was started by the military after he fired Mnangagwa earlier this month.
The longtime strongman’s right hand man was viewed as leading one side of a succession struggle with Mugabe’s much younger wife Grace, who was accused of trying to kill him earlier this year with a poisoned ice cream cone.
Military officials swore allegiance to Mnangagwa on Friday, as the new leader promised to stand for the people and promote democracy.
He urged his countrymen to “let bygones be bygones” and said that they cannot “be hostages of our past,” while promising to go through with elections planned for next year.
Mnangawa also offered praise for “father of the nation” Mugabe, who helped lead his country to independence from Britain before beginning a crackdown on opponents,
However, the end of his power brings only tempered hopes for real change.
Mnangagwa is accused of playing a major role in the same human rights abuses as Mugabe, such presiding over the massacre of certain ethnicities in the 1980s.
He is also still under U.S. sanctions after a violent crackdown on opposition politicians in 2008 elections.
Part of Mugabe’s exit from power, negotiated with the military, was assurances from his Zanu-PF party that he would not be prosecuted