Latest: Zimbabwe's new leader Emmerson Mnangagwa sworn in

Update 11.20pm: Zimbabwe's new president has said the country "should never remain hostages of our past" and paid tribute to former leader Robert Mugabe.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa said he is "deeply humbled" to take power after an extraordinary series of events that began with Mr Mugabe firing him early this month as vice president.

Mr Mugabe resigned on Tuesday under immense pressure from the military, the ruling party and the people amid fears his wife was trying to take power.

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Mr Mnangagwa vowed that "democratic" elections will be held next year as scheduled, and declared that the country is renewing itself after 37 years of Mr Mugabe.

He urged Zimbabwe to move beyond the poisoned politics of the recent past. "We dare not squander this moment," he said.

He also promises to reimburse the farmers whose land was seized under Mr Mugabe, leading to international condemnation. But he said those actions cannot be reversed.

Mr Mnangagwa vowed to tackle corruption Mr Mugabe's long reign, saying that "the culture of government must change, and change now".

He made a range of promises with the aim of reviving a once-prosperous economy that has collapsed amid mismanagement and international sanctions, adding that he will reach out for more foreign investment.

Original story: Zimbabwe's incoming leader Emmerson Mnangagwa has been sworn in, beginning a new era for the long-troubled nation.

Mr Mnangagwa promised to devote himself to the well-being of the people, to cheers from tens of thousands present at the 60,000-seat stadium in Harare.

He succeeds Robert Mugabe, who resigned on Tuesday under immense pressure from the military, the ruling party and the people amid fears his wife was trying to take power.

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Mr Mnangagwa was Mr Mugabe's longtime ally before his firing earlier this month. He will serve until the end of the presidential term next year. An election date has not yet been set.

A smiling Mr Mnangagwa greeted the crowd with a raised fist. The military, fresh from putting Mr Mugabe under house arrest just days ago, quickly swore its loyalty to the new leader.

Mr Mnangagwa, a former justice and defence minister, was a key confidant of Mr Mugabe's for decades until they fell out because of the presidential ambitions of Mr Mugabe's wife, Grace.

Despite his long association with the government that has presided over Zimbabwe's decline, including economic collapse and human rights abuses, Mr Mnangagwa has promised democracy and reached out to other countries for help.

Mr Mugabe, one of Africa's last remaining liberation leaders, quit on Tuesday amid impeachment proceedings. In the end, he was isolated and showing few of the political skills that kept him in power for 37 years and made him a prominent but polarising figure on the world stage. He had led since Zimbabwe's independence from white minority rule in 1980.

Mr Mugabe did not attend Friday's swearing-in, and ruling party officials have said he will remain in Zimbabwe with their promise that he is "safe" and his legacy as a "hero" will stand after his fight for an independent Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe's state-run Herald newspaper reported that Mr Mnangagwa assured Mr Mugabe and his family of their "maximum security". The report said the two men agreed Mr Mugabe would not attend on Friday because he "needed time to rest".

Some people ahead of the inauguration began to dance in the stadium stands. Banners read "Dawn of a new era" and "No to retribution", even as human rights activists began to report worrying details of attacks on close allies of the former first lady and their families. Mr Mnangagwa has warned against "vengeful retribution".

Tendai Lesayo held a small Zimbabwean flag as she sold drinks outside the stadium. She said she would welcome a fresh start, saying "life now is impossible".

Elsewhere in the capital, long lines formed outside banks, a common sight in a nation struggling with cash shortages and other severe economic problems that the new president will have to confront.

"Right now, nothing has really changed for me. I still cannot get my money from the bank," said Amon Mutora, who had been in line since 6am.

"Attending the inauguration will not bring food for my family," said Kelvin Fungai, a 19-year-old selling bananas from a cart. Many young people are well-educated but jobless, reduced to street vending to survive. Others have left the country.

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Elsewhere, there were signs of hope amid the uncertainty. Black market rates for cash have tumbled since Mr Mugabe left office. Before he stepped down, one had to deposit 170 dollars into a black market dealer's bank account to get 100 dollars cash. On Friday, 100 dollars cash was selling for between 140 dollars and 150 dollars.

As the inauguration crowds streamed by, Sharon Samuriwo sat on a ledge, watching. She said she hoped Mr Mnangagwa would learn from the errors of his predecessor, and she acknowledged that the path ahead for Zimbabwe is unknown.

Still, "after 37 years, we've got someone different," she said.

AP


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