ELISE HU, HOST:
The man who is poised to be the new leader of Zimbabwe returned to the country today.
HU: Emmerson Mnangagwa was the vice president of Zimbabwe until two weeks ago when longtime president Robert Mugabe fired him. But now with Mugabe forced to resign this week, a historic change of power will likely be official by tomorrow. Mnangagwa spoke to huge crowds from his party headquarters today. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is in the capital, Harare. She saw the speech and joins us now. Ofeibea, what was that scene like - the welcoming of Zimbabwe's president-in-waiting?
OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: It was like Emmerson Mnangagwa was a rock star, literally. But he was preaching to the convert today. These were supporters of the governing party. He was speaking not to all Zimbabweans of all stripes there. These were people who support him. And there were all sorts of banners saying, our president is back; our leader is back; our hero is back. So definitely these are people who were welcoming him back and saying thank you to him for your resilience and your endurance, as some of the banners said.
HU: Tell us more about the speech. In the speech, did Mnangagwa indicate he might bring democracy to Zimbabwe?
QUIST-ARCTON: Well, that's what he said. When he was speaking in English, he - it was a message, I would say, of unity, of trying to heal a polarized Zimbabwe and of taking the country forward. Listen to what he said at one point.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
EMMERSON MNANGAGWA: I appeal to all genuine, patriotic Zimbabweans to come together. We work together. No one is more important than the other. We are all Zimbabweans. We want to grow our economy. We want peace in our country. We want jobs, jobs, jobs.
HU: Ofeibea, you've been talking to Zimbabweans. What have they been saying to you?
QUIST-ARCTON: His supporters felt that it was a fabulous speech. They were right behind him. But those who are not so keen on Emmerson Mnangagwa - and don't forget that he was Mugabe's ally before he was fired as vice president - especially commented on what he said in the local Shona language. Anyone who opposes should be buried.
He - you know, he's saying anyone who's leading should not be opposed. And those who are anti-Mnangagwa say that is the sort of message that Mugabe trotted out. And this is more of the same and also that it was an arrogant speech because he was bragging that the ZANU-PF party is more or less the only show in town.
HU: And generally, you are in the capital there. What's the atmosphere like the day after Mugabe resigned?
QUIST-ARCTON: Zimbabweans are still on cloud nine, Elise. But then many have come down to Earth. And they say, look; we could have more of the same with this new man. The military were the ones who backed Emmerson Mnangagwa. He has been Mugabe's enforcer. He has been behind Mugabe for 37 years. What difference is he going to make? But those who support him say, look; he's good with the economy. And Zimbabwe's economy needs fixing, so give him a chance. We'll see. He should be sworn in on Friday.
HU: NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton speaking to us from Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe. Ofeibea, thanks.
QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure. Thanks, Elise. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.