President-in-waiting Emmerson Mnangagwa has made a triumphant return to Zimbabwe, telling a huge crowd of cheering supporters that the country is witnessing "a new, unfolding democracy".
"I appeal to all genuine people of Zimbabwe to come together," Mr Mnangagwa said. "We are all Zimbabweans ... we need peace in our country and jobs, jobs, jobs."
His call for unity was received enthusiastically by hundreds gathered at the headquarters of the ruling ZANU-PF party in Harare.
He thanked the people "in the name of Our Lord" in his first public speech since President Robert Mugabe announced his resignation.
With his wife Auxilia by his side, he addressed the crowd and described what he said were recent attempts to kill him.
Mr Mnangagwa, 75, said the pressure to "derail the process" of getting Mr Mugabe to step down was intense but "the will of the people will always, always succeed".
He just spoke hours after returning to the country.
He fled earlier this month after his firing by Mr Mugabe who then installed his wife Grace as his preferred successor.
Mr Mnangagwa was introduced as "president-in-waiting" by a speaker who praised Zimbabwe's military as "the most disciplined army in the world" during the past week's events.
Mr Mnangagwa will be sworn in on Friday following Mr Mugabe's resignation after 37 years at the helm.
Chief whip Lovemore Matuke confirmed Mr Mnangagwa was meeting Politburo members at party headquarters for a briefing "on what has been happening in his absence".
Mr Mnangagwa said he was in constant contact with military leaders during the tumultuous two weeks between his firing and his return to the country as its new leader.
He praised military and commander General Constantino Chiwenga "who have been able to manage this process very peacefully".
After emerging from hiding in South Africa, Mr Mnangagwa met with South African president Jacob Zuma and then flew to Zimbabwe in a private jet.
It was not clear what 93-year-old Mr Mugabe and his wife would do next. Mr Mugabe, who was the world's oldest head of state, said in his resignation letter that legal procedures should be followed to install a new president "no later than tomorrow".
Zimbabwe's new leaders are faced with a once-prosperous nation whose economy has collapsed, sending frustrated young people into desperate work as street vendors. Many have left the country altogether.
Mr Mnangagwa is a former justice and defence minister who served for decades as Mr Mugabe's enforcer, a role that earned him the nickname "Crocodile".
Many opposition supporters believe he was instrumental in the army killings of thousands of people when Mr Mugabe moved against a political rival in the 1980s.
So far in the current political turmoil Mr Mnangagwa has used inclusive language, saying Zimbabweans should work together to advance their nation.
"Never should the nation be held at ransom by one person ever again, whose desire is to die in office at whatever cost to the nation," he said.