Zimbabwe president must show he is different from Mugabe, says oppostition leader

Zimbabwe's new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has a "very small window" to show he is meeting national expectations of change after the downfall of predecessor Robert Mugabe, the country's main opposition leader has said.

Morgan Tsvangirai said in an interview with the Associated Press that it will be "very difficult to convince anyone" that Zimbabwe's new leadership is improving the situation as long as much of the population is struggling to get by in the economically devastated country.

Mr Tsvangirai was speaking almost a week after the inauguration of Mr Mnangagwa, a former vice president and close ally of Mr Mugabe for decades, who promised that "harmonised" elections will be held as scheduled next year and that democracy will be strengthened.

Morgan Tsvangirai.

The opposition leader, who joined an uneasy coalition government with Mr Mugabe after 2008 elections marred by violence and vote-rigging, said he has doubts about whether the new president will bring meaningful change.

"The president has to demonstrate that he's different from Robert Mugabe, that some of the critical policies that he's going to announce are different from what has been pursued for the last 10 years," Mr Tsvangirai said.

"Give him time," he said, but added: "I think he has a very small window because of the high expectation out there."

Brokered by regional mediators, the power-sharing arrangement between Mr Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change party and Mr Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party ended when the opposition lost disputed elections in 2013.

Zimbabwe's opposition has since struggled with internal splits, but now sees an opportunity in the resignation of Mr Mugabe after 37 years in power. The 93-year-old former president was forced out after a military takeover and nationwide calls for him to be ousted.

"We are ready to lead," said Mr Tsvangirai, who cautioned that "really substantial reforms" to the electoral system are necessary to reassure Zimbabweans about the process of choosing new leaders.

He also said prosecuting people for alleged offences committed during the Mugabe era would be an almost limitless task and would open a "Pandora's box".

However, he said a "truth and reconciliation commission" could be one way to address wrongdoings under Mr Mugabe.

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