Zimbabwe's New President

Nov 26, 2017
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Zimbabwe has begun a new chapter. Robert Mugabe resigned after 37 years in office. And Emmerson Mnangagwa took his inaugural oath on Friday. The new president is now focused on forming a cabinet. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is in the capital, Harare. Here's her report.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Zimbabweans have found their collective voice and are no longer afraid to speak out. They warn they'll not tolerate any more repression, corruption or economic mismanagement. And despite his ruthless reputation and long and close association with Robert Mugabe, many seem prepared to give the new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, the benefit of the doubt - like 16-year-old schoolgirl Randy Prudence Mangombe.

RANDY PRUDENCE MANGOMBE: He seems as if he has better ideas for our future, like developing our countries.

QUIST-ARCTON: Zimbabwe's new leader, a war veteran who's backed by the military, fosters his image as a doer. A pragmatist and free-market enthusiastic who will kick-start the shattered economy and bring back prosperity to Zimbabwe. Mnangagwa has made many promises and hopes to rally the nation.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

PRESIDENT EMMERSON MNANGAGWA: That never again - never again should the circumstances that have put Zimbabwe in an insufferable position be allowed to recur.

QUIST-ARCTON: Mnangagwa wants to open up Zimbabwe to the world and has called for sanctions to be lifted. He told foreign investors their assets would be safe. And though he said there's no turning back on controversial land reforms, he has pledged compensation for white farmers driven off their land.

During his inaugural speech, Mnangagwa appeared to make peace with Robert Mugabe - the man who fired him - triggering a lightning chain of events in Zimbabwe, including a military takeover and Mugabe's resignation.

(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)

MNANGAGWA: To me personally, he remains as father, mentor, comrade-in-arms and my leader.

(APPLAUSE)

QUIST-ARCTON: Applause was tepid. The teen, Randy Prudence Mangombe, says good riddance to Mugabe.

MANGOMBE: You know, ever since I was born, I always used the hear Mugabe's name. And my grandmother used to tell me that Mugabe was the only one ruling, from our independence until now. We saw that Mugabe and his wife Grace - they were not even able to change our country.

QUIST-ARCTON: The jury's out on Mnangagwa. His success will hinge on whether he is able to deliver on the economy, jobs and keeping the military in the barracks and out of politics. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Harare. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.