Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe's former vice-president who was ousted by former president Robert Mugabe just two weeks ago, has returned from South Africa to serve as interim president, with his swearing-in ceremony scheduled for Friday, according to state broadcaster ZBC.
A crowd of supporters gathered at a military airbase and at the ZANU-PF headquarters in Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, to welcome his return home.
Nicknamed the "Crocodile," Mnangagwa is expected to address the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front later today, CNN reported.
While in exile he issued a statement calling on all Zimbabweans to unite. "Together, we will ensure a peaceful transition to the consolidation of our democracy, and bring in a fresh start for all Zimbabweans and foster peace and unity," he told Zimbabwe's NewsDay.
Mnangagwa previously served as Zimbabwe's national security chief and one of Mugabe's closest allies throughout his career. Having participated in the Chimurenga revolutionary war to oust former president Ian Smith and his white-minority government, he's one of the most recognized officials within ZANU-PF.
Many view Mugabe's decision to fire Mnangagwa, viewed as a popular presidential hopeful, as a move aimed at clearing a path for his second wife, Grace Mugabe, to occupy the position.
ZANU-PF spokesperson Simon Khaya Moyo welcomed Mugabe's decision to resign as president yesterday, taking care to acknowledge that the former head of state “did so much for the liberation of Zimbabwe and indeed as Prime Minister and President post-independence. He deserves to rest and I believe every Zimbabwean agrees with this position.”
Fortune Charumbira, president of the National Council of Zimbabwe Chiefs, shared Chinomona's sentiment, describing Mugabe's departure as “unfortunate ... given his illustrious history but he was failing to rein in his wife who had taken a habit of humiliating grown-up men in public. This is unacceptable in our culture.”
Former ZANU-PF Women’s League political commissar Mabel Chinomona took a slightly different viewpoint, saying that the women of the nation were “embarrassed and the Women’s League which was a darling of many had become a death trap. We lost a lot of cadres in the top 10 because of her (Grace Mugabe).”
Mugabe's resignation comes days after he gave a nationally televised speech in which he said that all Zimbabweans must “embrace a new ethos.” With military officials to his right and government officials to his left, he added, “We are a nation born out of a protracted struggle for national independence” and that the goals and ideals of the struggle against “those who occupied and oppressed us” continue to “guide” our “collective legacy across generations and times.”