Tendai Mugabe, Harare Bureau
It was an epic and historic moment reminiscent of the 1980 independence celebrations yesterday as Zimbabweans witnessed the dawn of a new era when Cde Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa took the oath of office as Zimbabwe’s second Executive President at the giant National Sports Stadium in Harare.
Although the inauguration day was not declared a public holiday, the 60 000-seater stadium was filled to the brim, with an overflowing crowd following proceedings outside the main arena on giant screens.
Political leadership across the divide attended the ceremony, exuding a Zimbabwean spirit of unity and togetherness.
Of particular note at the ceremony was MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai and Dr Joice Mujuru of National People’s Party.
People started arriving at the National Sports Stadium as early as 6am, packing all the bays and by 9am, the main arena was filled to capacity. Services chiefs, led by Zimbabwe Defence Forces Commander General Constantino Chiwenga arrived around 8am and were received by electrifying cheers.
It was a hero’s welcome for President Mnangagwa, who arrived around 9am accompanied by First Lady Auxillia Mnangagwa, to mark the start of the official business of the day.
Foreign Heads of State and Government and former Presidents from the region also came to witness the historic event. Those who turned up were Presidents Edgar Lungu (Zambia), Ian Khama (Botswana), Philipe Nyuse (Mozambique), Namibian Vice President Nickey Iyambo and former Presidents Kenneth Kaunda and Rupiah Banda (Zambia), and Sam Nujoma and Hifikepunye Pohamba (Namibia).
South Africa was represented by Postal and Telecommunications Minister Siyabonga Cwele.
Journalists from across the globe stampeded when President Mnangagwa arrived, in an effort to capture the first shots of Zimbabwe’s second Executive President.
President Mnangagwa was welcomed by songs from the crowd who were chanting “Ngwena ndibaba vedu.”
Musician Jah Prayzah, who is also the Zimbabwe Defence Forces brand ambassador, did not disappoint as he left the crowd asking for more when he belted his hits songs “Kutonga Kwaro” and “Ndini Ndamubata.”
President Mnangagwa took oath of Office before Chief Justice Luke Malaba around 12 noon amid wild cheers.
He left the crowd in stitches when he was zoomed on the giant screen signing his crocodile like signature to mark his assumption of Office as Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.
As per tradition, President Mnangagwa was honoured by a 21 gun salute from the ZDF, followed by a fly past by four helicopters and fighter jets in a diamond formation.
The official ceremony of taking oath of Office was sealed by a kiss from First Lady Amai Mnangagwa, who was perfectly dressed in a white costume.
As part of the proceedings, the services chiefs pledged to be loyal to the new President of the Republic.
Affirming his loyalty, Gen Chiwenga said: “I, Constantino Guveya Dominic Nyikadzino Chiwenga, Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces of Zimbabwe, on behalf of all officers, men and women of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, do hereby solemnly and sincerely swear, affirm and declare our true loyalty to you, Your Excellency, the President of the Republic of Zimbabwe and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, that we will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Zimbabwe and laws of Zimbabwe. So help me God.” It was a bad day in office for Zimbabwe Republic Police Commissioner General Augustine Chihuri as he was repeatedly booed each time he appeared on the giant screen, and when he affirmed his loyalty to President Mnangagwa. The crowd chanted “ngaende, ngaende” as he was signing his loyalty papers.
The event was concluded by congratulatory messages from regional leaders, judicial officers led by Justice Malaba and officers from Parliament, among other officials.