Harare – Zimbabwe’s incoming President Emmerson Mnangagwa made a debut appearance and address at his ruling Zanu PF headquarters in Harare this evening, exactly 16 days after he was fired and forced to flee.
Mnangagwa whose whereabouts remained unknown since he was fired by the country’s former President arrived in the country late in the afternoon via an army airbase, as the military maintains tight security around him, following two assassination attempts which he confirmed in his address.
Mnangagwa appeared to rapturous applause, cheers and dance, from thousands of supporters across the political divide, who all thronged the venue.
He began his address in a rather somber fashion.
“Exactly 16 days ago I received a letter informing me of my firing from the government of Zimbabwe…Two hours later I was informed of plans to eliminate me” he said, appearing to be near tears.”
Mnangagwa added that given the nature of the assassination attempt on the 12th of August early this year which ended up with him being airlifted to South Africa, he took the threat seriously and fled.
Mnangagwa thanked the people who had gathered.
“To the people of Zimbabwe, you gathered here, may I say in the name of our Lord, may I say thank you for receiving me”
He added that he felt humbled that people waited hour just to see him. He also thanked the army, and told those gathered that he was in constant contact with the service chiefs during the entire time he was in exile.
Towards the end of his speech Mnangagwa took a swipe at Robert and Grace Mugabe, breaking ranks with his previous culture of silence. He thanked Zimbabweans for helping end a dictatorship and mocked Grace.
Speaking in vernacular language, he bemoaned the lies about him that were spread, but laughed at Grace Mugabe who once boasted that she would crush the snake’s head, in supposed reference to him, asking ‘whose head has been crushed now?’
But it was the messages in the middle of his speech that perhaps offered much encouragement. Mnangagwa drifted left from Mugabe. He spoke of the need for business to flourish, for development, for economic revival, and jobs, which he sang three times.
He spoke about the need for support from the region SADC, from the continental bloc, the AU, and from the international community.
He added that he had met South Africa’s President Zuma, Namibia’s President, Hage Geingob, and former Tanzanian leader, Jakaya Kikwete.
In reference to the people, Mnangagwa drifted from his popular slogan “tichingotonga (while we continue in power)”, re-branding it to “muchingotonga (while you continue to exercise your power)”, inspiring hope that hey maybe the people’s President.
He made reference to a letter that he wrote to President Mugabe a day after his ‘failed resignation’, and told supporters gathered that he had reminded the former President that he has always said he would quit when the people have told him to.
In the letter, Mnangagwa told Mugabe that he would not entertain any talks that drifted from the will of the people. He was talking about the thousands of people who flooded the streets demanding Robert Mugabe resigned.
Mnangagwa first address probably gave the first indications of the kind of presidency Zimbabwe will expect under him. He has for long been viewed as big on business, and his speech certainly offered suggestions of that.
He will be sworn in on Friday.
- Maynard Manyowa