Sun | Dec 17, 2017

Incoming leader Mnangagwa returns home to cheers

Published:Thursday | November 23, 2017 | 12:00 AM
Supporters of Emmerson Mnangagwa, the man expected to become Zimbabwe’s new president, hold a photograph of him and cheer as they arrive to show their support at Manyame Air Force base, where Mnangagwa was expected to arrive in Harare, Zimbabwe, yesterday.
Zimbabweans celebrate outside the parliament building immediately after hearing the news that President Robert Mugabe had resigned, in downtown Harare, Zimbabwe on Tuesday. (AP)
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HARARE, (AP):

Zimbabwe's incoming leader, Emmerson Mnangagwa, emerged from hiding yesterday, departing from neighbouring South Africa to return home in preparation to take power after Robert Mugabe's stunning resignation.

The 75-year-old Mnangagwa fled Zimbabwe after Mugabe fired him earlier this month, leading the military to move in and kick off a series of extraordinary events, ending in Mugabe stepping down Tuesday amid impeachment proceedings.

Mnangagwa met with South African President Jacob Zuma in a jovial "courtesy call" before taking a private jet from Johannesburg to Zimbabwe's capital, Harare. He went to ruling party headquarters to be briefed by officials.

He will be sworn in as Zimbabwe's new president tomorrow morning, the speaker of parliament said, after the ruling ZANU-PF party notified him of its nomination of Mnangagwa to replace Mugabe until the end of the current term next year.

Several hundred people gathered in anticipation of his first public remarks. Some carried signs with images of him, suggesting a certain level of organisation behind the jubilant turnout. Signs read "Welcome back, our hero" and "True to your word, you're back. Welcome."

One man in the crowd, Godwin Nyarugwa, said he was "very ecstatic" and that "we need change in this country, change in everything" after years of economic crisis. Nyarugwa said he had several university degrees but no job, a common theme among Zimbabwe's well-educated population.

"We have to try him and see," he said of Mnangagwa. "If he doesn't come up with something, we need to change him as well."

Zimbabweans were still reeling from Mugabe's resignation. They cheered and danced in the streets of Harare late into the night, thrilled to be rid of a leader whose early promise after the end of white minority rule in 1980 was overtaken by economic collapse, government dysfunction and human-rights violations.

Now the focus turns to Mnangagwa, Mugabe's longtime deputy who was pushed aside as unpopular first lady Grace Mugabe positioned herself to replace him and succeed her husband. Mnangagwa fled the country, claiming threats against his life.