Harare, Zimbabwe (CNN)Zimbabwe’s former vice president has returned to the country to serve as interim President, the state broadcaster reports, following veteran leader Robert Mugabe’s resignation after 37 years of rule.
Emmerson Mnangagwa is scheduled to be sworn in on Friday and is expected to address his ruling ZANU-PF party later today, according to state broadcaster ZBC.
Mugabe, 93, fired Mnangagwa as his deputy more than two weeks ago, triggering a political firestorm that culminated in his own humiliating defeat on Tuesday. Mnangagwa fled the country after his dismissal.
Following a night of cheering, singing and dancing in euphoric celebration, Zimbabwe awoke Wednesday to its first day in almost four decades without the leader who had ruled the country with an iron fist.
Thousands of Mnangagwa’s supporters gathered at the airport and the ruling ZANU-PF party’s headquarters in the capital, Harare, to wait for the man dubbed “The Crocodile” to return and open a new chapter in the country’s history.
Supporters of Emmerson Mnangagwa hold up a toy to celebrate the man nicknamed ‘The Crocodile’ as they waited at an airport for his arrival Wednesday.
But for many others, the joyous end of Mugabe’s reign is tempered with apprehension — Mnanagagwa served as Mugabe’s right-hand man for his entire career, and to many Zimbabweans, he is more feared than the leader he replaces.
The main opposition MDC-T has shown no resistance to Mnangagwa serving as transitional leader. It will be looking instead to make inroads in elections slated for next year.
“We are very excited that we have gotten rid of Robert Mugabe, but we have gotten rid of one man, we have not gotten rid of the system that was oppressive for 37 years,” MDC-T Secretary General Douglas Mwonzora told CNN.
“Therefore we have to work towards conditions for free and fair elections. The Zimbabwean people still have to choose a president by themselves.”