A new dawn or more of the same for Zim?

HARARE - A loud and familiar chant rang out across the tightly-packed arena as Emmerson Mnangagwa took to the stage to be sworn in as Zimbabwe’s president.

“ED Pfee! ED Pfee!” the crowds roared in unison, echoing the ruling Zanu PF party’s election campaign slogan for Mnangagwa to “get in there” in the hope that Zimbabwe’s second president will deliver a new era of prosperity and peace.

Addressing thousands of supporters gathered on Sunday at Harare’s National Sports Stadium, Mnangagwa urged Zimbabweans to unite across political, tribal and racial divides.

“We are all Zimbabweans; what unites us is greater than what could ever divide us,” said the 75-year-old, a former vice president and intelligence chief nicknamed “Ngwena”, Shona name for crocodile.

Mnangagwa’s inauguration was delayed by two weeks after the main opposition coalition filed a legal challenge to reject the result of the July 30 presidential election, which it said was marred by “mammoth theft and fraud”.

Electoral officials had declared Mnangagwa the winner with 50,8 percent, ahead of MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa, who got 44,3 percent.

But on Friday, Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Court unanimously rejected the opposition’s bid and upheld the Zanu PF leader’s victory — much to Chamisa’s dismay.

“President Mnangagwa is disputed as leader,” the 40-year-old opposition leader said in a statement. I have a legitimate claim that I am supposed to be leading the people of Zimbabwe.”

At the inaugural ceremony attended by other opposition leaders and several regional heads of State, Mnangagwa reached out to the opposition and urged the nation to look forward and work towards helping the country’s shuttered economy grow.

“The vision of a new and prosperous Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe we all want is a shared one and transcends political party lines. As a president, I pledge to act fairly and impartially, without fear or favour as president of all Zimbabweans,” he said.

Echoing Mnangagwa’s comments, Godfrey Gotora, a 26-year-old who works as a driver in Harare, said he was confident Mnangagwa could transcend the political rift and avoid repeating the mistakes of Mugabe, who led Zanu PF and the country for 37 years.

“Mnangagwa used to work with Mugabe and he could see all the mistakes that Mugabe made,” he told Al Jazeera.

“ED will correct all those things in the new dispensation. Even those in the opposition who think he will not make a good leader, they will see he has the ability to unite all of us.

“Mnangagwa is the father of all of us as people of this land so we must put our trust in him,” he said.

Ever since it declared independence in 1980, Zimbabwe has been ruled by Zanu PF. But following the rise of the MDC movement in the 2000s, the country has experienced disputed elections which resulted in violent clashes and court challenges from the opposition.

Although Chamisa accuses the Judiciary of being under Zanu PF’s control, Mnangagwa has promised a new dawn for Zimbabwe with impartial State institutions.

However, since Mugabe’s fall in November 2017 in the wake of a military intervention, concerns remain over the power and influence of the country’s armed forces.

On August 1, security forces crushed opposition protests in Harare, killing at least six people and wounding scores during demonstrations against delays in the announcement of election results.

According to Dewa Mavhinga, the post-election crackdown on the opposition by the security forces “marked a turning point” in Zimbabwe’s democracy.

“The military is the power behind Mnangagwa’s throne, and could be an obstacle to the democratisation project, notwithstanding Mnangagwa’s declared desire for a new dispensation,” he told Al Jazeera.

In his inaugural speech, Mnangagwa reiterated his mantra that “Zimbabwe is open for business”, pledging to cut down on government expenditure and implement policies to attract domestic and foreign capital.

He also pledged to introduce a raft of fiscal measures to address Zimbabwe’s external debt arrears and liquidity crisis.

— Aljazeera

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