Emmerson Mnangagwa Sworn In As Zimbabwe's New Leader

Nov 24, 2017
Originally published on November 24, 2017 2:41 pm
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After 37 years with one leader, Zimbabwe has a new president. Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn in today at a stadium in the capital Harare.


PRESIDENT EMMERSON MNANGAGWA: I, Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, swear that as president of Republic of Zimbabwe...


MNANGAGWA: ...I will be faithful and obey and defend the Constitution and all other laws of Zimbabwe.

SHAPIRO: He replaces longtime ruler Robert Mugabe, who was forced to resign this week in a standoff with Zimbabwe's military. Mnangagwa had been Mugabe's vice president until they had a falling out a couple of weeks ago.

NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton joins us now from Harare. And, Ofeibea, what was the atmosphere like there? And what more did Zimbabwe's new leader have to say?

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Well, first of all, it was an incredibly colorful ceremony. The National Stadium, which sits 60,000, it was pretty chock-a-block. And there was a real atmosphere of, if not the euphoria that we saw after President Mugabe resigned, definitely the supporters of Emmerson Mnangagwa were cheering him on.

There were roars of support when he was speaking. There were roars of the support for especially the army that took over last week. The new president promised to change Zimbabwe. He said this was a new era and that he wanted to change the political culture in Zimbabwe. He wants to rebuild the country.

And he says, never again should Zimbabwe see some of the problems, the toxic problems, it has lived with. Have a listen.


MNANGAGWA: We must appreciate the fact that over the years, our domestic politics have become poisoned and rancorous and polarizing. We dare not squander the moment.

SHAPIRO: In addition to the poisonous political atmosphere, the economy is in real trouble. What does the new president plan to do to fix that?

QUIST-ARCTON: First of all, he says that he is going to fight corruption and says those who are found guilty will face prosecution - swift justice, he called it. He says Zimbabwe aspires to be a clean nation, and that is the only way it's going to develop. Zimbabwe's economy is in tatters, Ari. I mean, we have had a country that over the past 10 years has talked about hyperinflations in the trillions. It had a bank note that was $100 trillion.

So again, he repeated his mantra that he is going to create jobs, jobs, jobs. And he talked about especially the youth, and there was a roar of approval. But what can he do to repair Zimbabwe's chaotic and depressed economy? He says agriculture is the base. Foreign investors come to Zimbabwe. It's safe. He also promised to compensate white farmers who were driven off their land. But he says he's not going back on the appropriation of land. He says that was what the liberation independence war was all about, so there will be no reverse. But he did talk about compensation despite land reform being so chaotic in Zimbabwe.

SHAPIRO: Ofeibea, tell us about what you've heard from Zimbabweans you've spoken to. Does this new leader give them hope?

QUIST-ARCTON: Well, the speech was really well-received by Mnangagwa's supporters. They feel that change has come to Zimbabwe after 37 years of Robert Mugabe. Although, of course, Emmerson Mnangagwa was one of the lieutenants of Mugabe, so those who are not so sure and those who don't back Mnangagwa say they'll have to wait and see. But I think many Zimbabweans are prepared to give him a chance at least to see whether or not he can deliver on his many, many promises so far.

SHAPIRO: NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton speaking with us from Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. Thanks so much.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure, Ari. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.