Emmerson Mnangagwa, the former Vice President will be sworn in as president on Friday, according to Zimbabwe’s state broadcaster.
The report by the government-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) said Mnangagwa would arrive in the capital, Harare, later on Wednesday. Mnangagwa, 75, had not been in the country since November 6 when he was sacked by Robert Mugabe, his former ally.
Robert Mugabe resigned as president on Tuesday evening after a week of intense pressure following a military takeover. Much of that pressure stemmed from Mugabe’s decision to remove Mnangagwa, who is seen as close to the Zimbabwean armed forces.
Emmerson Mnangagwa and Mugabe had once been strong allies, even sharing a cell during their imprisonment
At the airport where Mnangagwa was due to arrive, large crowds were gathering to welcome the former vice president. Ezekiel Gadzi, 52, told Al Jazeera he was elated at Mnangagwa’s return because Mnangagwa had promised that he would return to make Zimbabwe a more democratic country.
“A new era is about to begin, and I look forward to Mnangagwa becoming leader of Zimbabwe. Had it not been for him and the support he got from the war veterans and the army, we would still be under the yoke of Robert Mugabe. But Mnangagwa is now returning to lead a new dispensation,” he said.
Tatenda Chari, an unemployed teacher in his mid-twenties, shared Gadzi’s sentiments and said that he hoped the incoming leader would improve Zimbabwe’s economy.
“I’m very happy because I see the possibility of a new Zimbabwe with Mnangagwa. I’ve been sitting at home with my parents, and I can’t even put bread on the table because of Mugabe, so I place my hope in this new president that he won’t let us down,” she said.
Shortly after being sacked, the former vice president fled the country claiming that he and his family had been threatened by Mugabe.
The former president’s wife, Grace Mugabe, called Mnangagwa a “coup plotter” and a “coward” in a speech shortly after his sacking. That incident was also said to have ruffled feathers within Zimbabwe’s ruling establishment.
Emmerson Mnangagwa, like Mugabe, is a veteran of the struggle for independence from Britain. He is considered by the military to be an appropriate replacement for the former president, who at 93 was Africa’s oldest leader.
Grace Mugabe’s ambitions for the presidency were fiercely opposed by the armed forces, who warned that they would not allow someone who had not fought in the independence war to take the helm of the country.
Despite their relationship taking a sharp turn in recent months, Mnangagwa and Mugabe had once been strong allies, even sharing a cell during their imprisonment. Mnangagwa had been a member of Mugabe’s cabinet since the country’s independence, and vice president since 2014.