By CHRISTOPHER TORCHIA and FARAI MUTSAKA
The Associated Press
HARARE, Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s new President Emmerson Mnangagwa vowed Friday he will work to reduce crushing unemployment and return the country to prosperity after years of decline, as the nation cheered a new beginning after the extraordinary exit of Robert Mugabe.
“Our economic policy will be directed for job, job, job creation,” Mnangagwa told the crowd of 60,000 witnessing his inauguration at a stadium in the capital, Harare. Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate is estimated to be 80 percent.
“We must work together. You, me, all of us who make up this nation,” Mnangagwa said, urging the millions of Zimbabweans who have left the country to return.
“I must hit the ground running,” the new president said.
Mnangagwa, fired earlier this month as vice president, takes power after a whirlwind series of events that ousted the 93-year-old Mugabe, who had been the world’s oldest head of state. Mugabe who succumbed to pressure to quit from the military, the ruling party and massive demonstrations amid fears his unpopular wife would succeed him.
The new president’s speech struck notes of inclusion and reconciliation after years of growing frustration with Mugabe’s 37-year rule.
Mnangagwa said farmers would be compensated for the often forceful land seizures that drew international condemnation and sanctions and contributed to the country’s economic slide. But the program that saw land seized from white farmers and given to black Zimbabweans will not be reversed, he said.
“The principle of nationalization of our land cannot be challenged or reversed,” Mnangagwa said, but added that a land commission would be formed to make sure that properties are farmed productively.
The new president also sought to reassure the international community and attract badly sought investment.
“All foreign investment will be safe in Zimbabwe,” Mnangagwa said, addressing fears following moves by Mugabe to nationalize the country’s lucrative resources such as diamonds, platinum, gold and chrome.
Mnangagwa also said he will tackle corruption, and pledged that “democratic” elections will be held next year as planned.
He promised to change Zimbabwe’s political climate which he characterized as “poisonous, rancorous and polarized.”
And yet he opened his speech by praising outgoing leader Mugabe, who remains praised by many in Africa for his role in ending white-minority ruled Rhodesia….