Emmerson Mnangagwa was on Friday sworn-in as Zimbabwe’s president, putting a final end to Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule.
The 75-year-old former security chief took his oath of office in front of thousands of cheering supporters at Harare’s national stadium.
The man known as “The Crocodile” vowed to uphold the constitution of the former British colony and protect the rights of all Zimbabwe’s 16 million citizens.
“The task at hand is that of rebuilding our country,” he said.
“I am required to serve our country as the president of all citizens regardless of color, creed, religion, tribe, totem or political affiliation.”
His critics have, however, described him as a hardliner who gained power in a de facto coup and was a key player in President Mugabe’s authoritarian regime.
Particularly, they have questioned his role in the so-called Gukurahundi massacres in Matabeleland in 1983, when an estimated 20,000 people were killed in a crackdown on Mugabe opponents by the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade.
Mnangagwa has denied any part in the atrocities.
Mugabe was not present at the swearing-in ceremony as confirmed by Presidential spokesman George Charamba.
His former rival, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change, Morgan Tsvangirai, was in attendance. He received rapturous applause as he arrived at the packed stadium for the swearing-in.
Opposition stalwart Joice Mujuru was also at the event at which military units stood in formation on a multi-purpose grass sports pitch, under the shadow of a big-screen TV.
Mugabe was the world’s oldest serving head of state. He resigned on Tuesday as parliament started impeachment proceedings against him, a week to the day after the army stepped in to seize power.
Officials have promised him of his safety and that his legacy as a war hero in the fight for independence from white minority rule will stand.
Zimbabwe’s state-run Herald newspaper reported that Emmerson Mnangagwa assured Mugabe and his family of their “maximum security”.