Re-elected leader pleads for unity and promises to revive ailing economy following last month’s disputed polls.
Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa has promised to lift millions out of poverty as he was sworn in for a second term after being declared the winner of last month’s disputed election.
Voters went to the polls on August 23 to elect Zimbabwe’s president, parliamentarians and local council members, but the main opposition party described the results that gave Mnangagwa 52.6 percent of the presidential vote as a “gigantic fraud”.
In his speech after being inaugurated on Monday, Mnangagwa pleaded for unity in the aftermath of the polls and promised to revive the ailing economy.
“Responsive policies which began in the first term of my presidency are on course to lift many out of poverty,” Mnangagwa said in the capital, Harare.
Thousands of his supporters, mostly bussed in from across the country, sang and danced as the 80-year-old walked into the National Sports Stadium alongside his wife, Auxillia.
He took the oath of office in front of Chief Justice Luke Malaba who in 2018 declared Mnangagwa as winner following a Constitutional Court challenge.
“I stand as a president of all. I offer you individually and collectively, unity,” Mnangagwa said.
Several African leaders – including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, Mozambique leader Filipe Nyusi and Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi – attended the swearing-in ceremony, while Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema chose to stay away.
Mnangagwa’s second term comes amid unrelenting economic challenges, with the Zimbabwean dollar having plunged 80 percent since the start of the year while international funding remains frozen.
Reporting from the ceremony, Al Jazeera’s Haru Mutasa said the country’s economic recovery was likely to dominate Mnangagwa’s focus in the next five years.
“He’s been going around the country opening mines and trade fairs, building bridges and roads. He says that if he develops infrastructure, it will attract investment and that will create jobs,” she said.
Nelson Chamisa, the 45-year-old leader of the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) party, called for a new vote after his party alleged the election was “flawed” but did not challenge the result in court, clearing the way for Mnangagwa’s inauguration.
Mnangagwa had encouraged the opposition to approach the courts but said the vote was valid and warned there would be a crackdown on anyone spreading chaos.
In its preliminary report, an observer mission from the regional bloc the Southern African Development Community (SADC) said the election fell short of regional standards and international standards while the European Union’s observer mission said the polls happened under a “climate of fear”.
The government was also criticised for the arrest of more than 40 civic society organisation activists and alleged widespread voter intimidation in the countryside.
Although voting went on peacefully, polling was marred by massive delays in the deployment of ballot papers, leading to opposition accusations of voter suppression.
After being sidelined from the international community for more than two decades during former President Robert Mugabe’s rule, Zimbabwe has under Mnangagwa sought to re-engage erstwhile Western partners.
In the absence of foreign funding, Zimbabwe’s economic challenges are expected to continue as millions face an uncertain future.
Mnangagwa hinted that he will maintain the country’s currency, the Zimbabwe dollar, despite its weakening against the United States dollar since its reintroduction in 2019.
“A national currency is indispensable,” Mnangagwa said. “We can only grow our economy based on internal resources. Development and national prosperity in what we have is more sustainable and durable.”