HARARE, Zimbabwe -- Zimbabwe's ruling party assured Robert Mugabe that he wouldn't be prosecuted if he resigned, a party official said Thursday, as the country prepared to move on from his 37-year rule.
"Prosecuting him was never part of the plan," said Lovemore Matuke, chief whip of the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front. "He is safe, his family is safe and his status as a hero of his country is assured. All we were saying is resign or face impeachment."
Simon Khaya Moyo, a spokesman for the ruling party, reiterated that point.
"We don't have anything against him or his family. He's the hero of our liberation," Moyo said.
Mugabe, who resigned on Tuesday as lawmakers began impeaching him, has not spoken publicly since his stunning speech Sunday defying calls from the military, ruling party and the people to step down.
But it appears he and his wife will remain in the capital, Harare.
According to protocol, Mugabe could even be present at the 75-year-old Mnangagwa's swearing-in this morning at a 60,000-seat stadium after making a triumphant return to the country. He fled shortly after his firing, claiming threats to his life.
Meanwhile, on the ground, there's a public hunger for a real break from the policies of Mugabe, though skepticism that Mnangagwa will do so abounds.
"I hope he will not continue with the usual populist noises which we've seen with the former government," said Tsitsi Mushure, a 36-year-old single mother. "People need jobs, I need a job. Things are not well, not just for me, but the whole country."
Mnangagwa's speech upon his return Wednesday night outside ruling party headquarters promised "a new, unfolding democracy" and efforts to rebuild a shattered economy. But he also recited slogans from the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party, unlikely to reassure the opposition.
The opposition party Movement for Democratic Change, which supported Mugabe's removal, said it had not been invited to the inauguration. Spokesman Obert Guru said the party was closely watching Mnangagwa's next moves, "particularly regarding the dismantling of all the oppressive pillars of repression."
In a new statement Thursday, Mnangagwa urged Zimbabweans against "vengeful retribution."
The pastor who led large anti-government protests last year, Evan Mawarire, says Zimbabweans should let Mnangagwa know that the country should be for everyone and not just the ruling party.
Mnangagwa, a former justice and defense minister with close ties to the military who served for decades as Mugabe's enforcer, remains on a U.S. sanctions list over allegations of violently cracking down on opponents.
He fled Zimbabwe after being fired on Nov. 6 and was in hiding during the week-long political drama that led to Mugabe's resignation. His appearance on Wednesday, flanked by heavy security, delighted supporters who hope he can guide Zimbabwe out of political and economic turmoil.
Mnangagwa will serve Mugabe's remaining term until elections at some point next year. Opposition lawmakers who have alleged vote-rigging in the past say balloting must be free and fair, a call the United States and others have echoed.
Mugabe's resignation was met with wild celebrations by people thrilled to be rid of a leader whose early promise after taking power at the end of white minority rule in 1980 was overshadowed by economic collapse, government dysfunction and human-rights violations.
On Thursday, an editorial in the privately run NewsDay newspaper said Mnangagwa has "an unenviable task" and that he should set up a coalition government that represents all Zimbabweans.
While Mnangagwa must try to revive an agricultural industry that was once the envy of southern African neighbors, unlock investment in mining and re-establish credit lines, he may need input from opposition parties to give his new administration credibility in the eyes of investors.
"The big question is going to be 'what is the nature of his Cabinet?' Does he include people in the opposition who have that legitimacy and that will help him immediately gain the support of the international community?" Greg Mills, director of the Brenthurst Foundation, a Johannesburg-based research institution, said by phone from Harare.
Opposition leaders such as the Movement for Democratic Change's Morgan Tsvangirai, a former prime minister, and ex-Finance Minister Tendai Biti, who heads the People's Democratic Party, will watch Mnangagwa's inaugural speech closely for clues as to whether he's ready to build bridges with Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front's rivals before general elections next year.
"There are some small signs suggesting it will be more of the same, and some small signs saying it will never be the same again," Biti said. "Right now we're in a state of flux."
First indications are that the ruling party is prepared to rule alone.
"To my knowledge, there aren't any plans to include the opposition in the government while ZANU-PF has the people's mandate," party spokesman Simon Khaya Moyo said by phone Thursday. "The party won the last election and will rule as normal."
Economically, Mnangagwa needs to boost investor confidence by changing so-called indigenization laws that force companies to sell or transfer 51 percent stakes to black Zimbabweans, said Farai Mugano, an economist at the University of Zimbabwe.
"He must take bold and decisive decisions, and the first thing that must go is the indigenization law," Mugano said. "It must go, like, yesterday."
Mnangagwa must take other measures such as restoring property rights so that land has value and farmers can produce food, and slashing the size of the Cabinet and public service, according to John Robertson, a Harare-based economist.
"It's going to involve more than words; it's going to have to involve some quite difficult political choices," Mills of the Brenthurst Foundation said. "There is appetite here for change -- you see that in terms of the outpouring of public emotion around Mugabe's ejection."
Information for this article was contributed by Farai Mutsaka and Christopher Torchia of The Associated Press and by Godfrey Marawanyika, Brian Latham, Mike Cohen and Desmond Kumbuka of Bloomberg News.
Workers erect stands Thursday ahead of today’s presidential inauguration of Emmerson Mnangagwa at the National Sports Stadium in Harare, Zimbabwe.
A Section on 11/24/2017
Print Headline: Impeachment never a goal, Mugabe told