HARARE, Emmerson Mnangagwa has been inaugurated as Zimbabwe's second president since indepdnecne after 27 uninterrpted years of rule by Robert Mugabe wuith a pledge to weed out corruption and to hold the next general election next year as scheduled.

His pronouncement at the swearing-in ceremony at the National Stadium here Friday put to rest speculation that the polls would be suspended to pave way for a transitional authority which would take charge of the country following President Mugabe's resignation on Tuesday.

Mnangagwa told a capacity crowd at the 60,000-seat stadium which included his main rivals in the next elections, Morgan

Tsvangirai of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDM) and former vice-president Joice Mujuru, who leads the People's Rainbow Coalition, that the polls would be democratic.

Peace and harmony should be characteristics of how we relate to each other before, during and after the 2018 harmonised, democratic elections, Mnangagwa said. I commit to you today that these elections will be held as scheduled.

As never seen before during official events in Zimbabwe, opposition leaders Tsvangirai and Mujuru were also seated in the VVIP area with visiting Heads of State who included Presidents Filipe Nyusi of Mozambique, Ian Khama of Botswana and Edgar Lungu of Zambia. Former Heads of State Sam Nujoma of Namibia and Hifikepunye Pohamba of Namibia, Kenneth Kaunda and Rupiah Banda of Zambia were also present.

Mnangagwa said while elections would go ahead, it was imperative that Zimbabweans unite to rebuild the country. I encourage all of us to remain peaceful even as preparations for political contestations for next year's harmonised elections gather momentum, he said.

In the meantime, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has said that more than three million people out of an expected 7.2 million have so far registered as voters in preparation for next year's polls. Zimbabwe is for the first time using a Biometric Voter Registration system, which will see the electoral body coming up with a new voters' roll.

Voter registration is expected to end in January but is largely expected to continue after that until the date for elections

is proclaimed.

Mnangagwa will for the first time contest in the polls as leader of the ruling Zanu-PF party after former party leader Mugabe was removed by the top decision-making body of the party at the weekend on a litany of charges.

Mnangagwa promised to crack down on the country's endemic corruption which is blamed partly for stalling economic

growth and development in the country. He said the new government would focus on the economy, which has been

battered for years by, among other things, international sanctions, policy inconsistencies and graft.

Acts of corruption must stop forthwith. Where these occur, swift justice must be served to show each and all that crime and other acts of economic sabotage can only guarantee ruin to perpetrators. We have to aspire to be a clean nation, one sworn to high moral standards and deserved rewards. On these ideals, my administration declares full commitment, warning that grief awaits those who depart from the path of virtue and clean business, he said.

A 2015 report by a global corruption watchdog, Transparency International, ranked Zimbabwe 150th out of 168 countries in terms of graft.

President Mnangagwa also said a new civil service work ethic was needed for the Government to turn around the economy.

To our civil servants, it cannot be business as usual. You now have to roll up your sleeves in readiness to deliver. We have an economy to recover, a people to serve," he added.

"Each and every one of us must now earn their hour, day, week and month at work. Gone are the days of absenteeism and

desultory application, days of unduly delaying and forestalling decisions and services in the hope of extorting dirty rewards. That will have to stop.

"A new culture must now inform and animate daily conduct. Our offices must speedily answer questions and generate

solutions awaited by our customers, be they citizens or well- meaning outsiders who want to join in the recovery of our economy. The culture in Government just has to change."


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