Zimbabwe’s Emmerson Mnangagwa takes oath of office

Emmerson Mnangagwa has taken the oath as Zimbabwe’s president after a bitterly disputed election.

Cheers ring out in a national stadium at his inauguration as the country moves on from the decades-long rule of Robert Mugabe.

Mnangagwa first took office in November after Mugabe resigned under military pressure, and narrowly won a July 30 election that the opposition alleged was rigged.

The Constitutional Court on Friday rejected those claims.

The 75-year-old Mnangagwa, a former Mugabe confidant, now faces the mammoth task of rebuilding a worsening economy and uniting a nation deeply divided by a vote that many hoped would deliver change.

He took the oath before Chief Justice Luke Malaba who, together with eight other Constitutional Court judges had dismissed Chamisa’s petition.

The election was touted as a crucial step towards shedding the pariah reputation Zimbabwe gained under Mnangagwa’s predecessor Robert Mugabe, and securing international donor funding to revive a crippled economy.

But hours before Mnangagwa’s inauguration, the International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute said the country lacked a “tolerant democratic culture” in which political parties were treated equally and citizens allowed to vote freely.

The election was marred by procedural lapses and followed by an army crackdown against opposition supporters, undermining promises that Mnangagwa made during campaigning to break with the corruption and mismanagement that become endemic under Mugabe.

The crackdown, which left six people dead on Aug. 1, recalled the heavy-handed security tactics that marked the 37-year rule of Mugabe, who was removed in a coup in November.

The U.S. observers also urged “all sides to rely on peaceful expression and to avoid acts or threats of retribution against political rivals following the Constitutional Court’s decision.”

See also  Zimbabwe rules out adopting United States dollar as sole currency

Washington has maintained travel and financial sanctions on senior ruling party officials, including Mnangagwa, as well as some state-owned firms. Washington’s support is key if Zimbabwe is to get any funding from the International Monetary Fund.

The European Union, meanwhile, has progressively removed sanctions and they only remain in place on Mugabe and his wife Grace.