Newly inaugurated interim president of Zimbabwe, Emerson Mnangagwa, has said his country would hold free and fair elections this coming year, dispelling chances of an early five-year term unity government with the opposition.
Mnangagwa went at length in addressing pressing issues saying it was now time to put aside toxic politics and heal the country’s depressed economy.
“The task before us is much bigger than competing for political office, let’s play our part to build this great nation together”
“We can’t squander this opportunity as we seek to ensure that all that we do is intended to benefit all of us. Let bygones be bygones, and never again shall the past circumstances be allowed to come back to derail Zimbabwe’s progress and economic development,” he said to the excitement of a 16 000 plus filled national sports stadium.
He passionately spoke of the urgent need to rebuild bridges with the international community and have the western imposed economic sanctions lifted.
“My government is ready to re-engage all nations and financial institutions. We call upon those countries that have punished us in the past to reconsider their political and economic sanctions against us,” he said.
In a visible show of a desire to heal the racial divide that culminated after Mugabe’s violent seizure of white farms in 2 000, Mnangagwa said the dispensation needed the active cooperation of everyone, irrespective of race.
While he indicated that the land reform was irreversible, he did say his “government is committed to compensate those who lost their land during the process, while issues on land tenure are immediately addressed.”
He took time to pay homage to his long time serving predecessor, the now retired Robert Mugabe, acknowledging the leadership role he played in the country’s liberation war.
“He led us in our struggle for national independence and assumed responsibilities of leadership at the formative and most challenging time,” he said.
Mnangagwa has been held with critical contempt for presiding over the massacring of Ndebele people from the Matabeleland region of the country in what is called the Gukurahundi genocide.
But he has since exonerated himself from the episode, saying he was not in the driving seat at the time, which set the North Korean trained Fifth Brigade on a rampage of ethnic-cleansing.
Subtly acknowledging that dark period which marks his track record, Mnangagwa said there was need to still acknowledge the role Mugabe played in steering the country from the colonial yoke.
“Whatever errors of omission or commission that may have occurred in that critical phase, let us acknowledge his immense contribution,” he said.
Mnangagwa’s political career nearly came to a crunching halt a few weeks ago when he was publicly humiliated by then first lady, Grace Mugabe, who engineered his dramatic firing.
After fleeing the country in a huff with treason charges hot at his heels, the army stepped in and put the first family under house arrest.
The coup was bloodless and smooth, leading to the capture and arrest of Grace’s political allies, whom the army labelled criminals.
The military take-over was hailed by the majority of Zimbabweans, tired of Mugabe’s iron fist over the country, and they marched in solidarity demanding his immediate resignation.
A period of dialogue, debate and regional diplomacy followed and after Mugabe refused to step down, calls for impeachment buckled him down at which point he penned a resignation letter.
News of Mugabe’s abdication were received with heavy emotions from ordinary Zimbabweans who thronged the streets in jovial celebration.
“It is over,” citizens could be heard in the capital’s famous Samora Machel Avenue which was jammed with traffic while others shed tears.
Meanwhile, the new president inherits a torn country, with over 95 percent unemployment, a corruption riddled society whose skilled labour has since fled the country in droves.
He has before his table, a myriad of challenges ranging from dealing with western imposed sanctions, youth unemployment, a culture of institutionalized corruption, the IMF debt to how to reposition the country back on the global space.