President Emmerson Mnangagwa...having the last laugh

ZIMBABWE’S president Emmerson Mnangagwa has pledged “to hit the ground running” as the country’s new leader and to implement a new culture of government in which economic growth and the creation of jobs will be of paramount importance.

Announcing his reform agenda after taking oath of office at the National stadium in Harare today, before a capacity crowd of 60,000, president Mnangagwa added: “The culture of government must change now. Extortion days are gone. Corruption must stop. Wherever it occurs, swift justice must descend. We have to aspire to be a clean nation. Each one of us must earn their hour, week and month.”

Alluding to high unemployment across Zimbabwe, estimated by some economists to be around 90 percent, Mnangagwa said: “Our economic policy will be directed for job, job, job creation. The bottom line is an economy back on its feet and a creation of jobs for our youths. Liquidity challenges must be tackled head on and people must be able to access their money from the banks.”

He acknowledged that Zimbabwe faces a daunting task as it embarks on a new chapter in its history, which he referred to as “Zimbabwe’s second phase of its birth.”

While we cannot change the past, there is a lot we can do to give our nation a new direction,” Mnangagwa said. “I appeal to all of us to let bygones be bygones. Never again should circumstances which put Zimbabwe in this unfavourable position be allowed. We must accept that our challenges emanate from the way we have managed our politics. Over the years our domestic politics had become poisonous. The task now is to rebuild our country. My government will ensure that the pillars of democracy are strengthened.”

Turning to the rebuilding of the economy, president Mnangagwa said unity, peace and development are the pillars on which Zimbabwe will project its new vision. “Our economy will be predicated on a command agriculture that puts a premium on job creation,” he said. “We need to attract Foreign investment and skilled Zimbabweans must come into the broad calculus to position our country for economic growth.”

Furthermore, Mnangagwa said health, clean water and shelter should be a right enjoyed by every Zimbabwean in a just equitable society. “We dare not squander the moment. Whatever we do must be intended to benefit our people and held in trust for future generations.”

While Mnangagwa promised that his government was committed to compensating farmers whose land was taken over during the chaotic land reform programme under Mugabe’s administration, he said “the principle of taking back our land cannot be challenged or reversed.”

Robert and Grace Mugabe...no show at Mnangagwa inauguration
Robert and Grace Mugabe…no show at Mnangagwa inauguration

Meanwhile, Robert Mugabe, the man who ruled Zimbabwe for 37 years, was conspicuous by his absence among local and foreign dignitaries who attended Mnangagwa’s inauguration. Sources in Harare said the former president had cited fatigue but “expressed his good wishes and support for the incoming president.”

Nevertheless, president Mnangagwa spared a moment for the man who sacked him as vice president nearly three weeks ago, after working under him for over 40 years. He said: “Mugabe led us in our struggle for national independence at a very challenging time. That is to be lauded. Let’s accept and acknowledge his contribution to the building of our nation. To me, he remains like a father and mentor as one of the founders of our nation.”

Mnangagwa has promised that he will adhere to the timetable set for the country’s next general election in September 2018.

While it is still uncertain if Mnangagwa’s new cabinet will include members of other political parties, speculation is rife on social media that the interim government may include among other’s, Zapu’s stalwart Dumiso Dabengwa, Tendai Biti, Tshinga Dube, Thokozani Khupe and Welshman Ncube.