HARARE, Former Zimbabwean vice-president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who will be sworn in as Head of State on Friday following the resignation President Robert Mugabe, has pledged to give priority to reviving the

country's collapsed economy, and says he will welcome with open arms all potential partners to achieve the goal.

Mnangagwa told thousands of supporters in his first public appearance here Wednesday shortly his return from exile that he was ready to be their servant. He had fled the country fearing his safety after his dismissal by Mugabe, a move which galvanized the ruling ZANU-PF party and the military to force the 93-year-old Mugabe to step down.

I pledge myself to be your servant. I appeal to all genuine patriotic Zimbabweans to come together and we work together, no one is more important than the other, Mnangagwa said to loud cheers. We want to grow our economy, we want peace in our country, and we want jobs.

Mnangagwa, who takes over after President Robert Mugabe resigned on Tuesday, said: Within two hours (after being fired), I was informed about plans to eliminate me he told supporters.

His dismissal from the ruling Zanu PF party and government by President Mugabe, for alleged disloyalty among other issues, triggered a series of events, including the army's intervention in government affairs, and the subsequent sacking of the president by ZANU-PF.

After deposing President Mugabe as both party and state president, Zanu PF nominated Mnangagwa in his place, and he is due to be sworn in on Friday.

Mnangagwa said Zimbabwe was witnessing the beginning of a new unfolding democracy with his appointment as Head of State. We need also the co-operation of our neighbours in the SADC (the 15-member Southern African Development Community), we need the co-operation of the continent of Africa, we need the co-operation of our friends outside the

continent, Mnangagwa said.

I am already receiving messages of cooperation and support, we would like to grow our economy. Zimbabwe has struggled to grow its economy over the years in a manner that improves the people's socio-economic well-being owing to a

combination of sanctions imposed on the country by the West and government inefficiencies which have fuelled corruption among others.

Unemployment remains very high, while formal industry continues to shrink.

Mnangagwa said while in exile, he had met President Jacob Zuma of South Africa and spoken to President Hage Geingob of Namibia as well as Jakaya Kikwete, the former president of Tanzania, who pledged support after discussions on the political situation in Zimbabwe.

The incoming President lauded Zimbabwe's military and the people for having gone through the unprecedented political process, which has for the past week grabbed world attention, in a peaceful manner. He praised Speaker of the National Assembly, Jacob Mudenda for having withstood pressure from Mugabe's supporters, who sought to derail plans to impeach the former Head of State.

Mugabe, the only leader Zimbabweans have known in 37 years, submitted his resignation on Tuesday evening while Parliament was in the midst of debating a motion for his impeachment.

Earlier Wednesday, Mnangagwa returned home from exile after fleeing the country two weeks ago following threats to his life after he was dismissed from government. Mugabe is suspected to have sacked Mnangagwa to replace him with his wife, Grace, but instead triggered sustained public pressure, paving way for Mnangagwa to take over.

Mnangagwa returned home from South Africa, flying into a military air base near the capital for security reasons.

Earlier, he held talks with President Zuma, who is also the current Chair of SADC.

Mnangagwa's appointment has been overwhelmingly welcomed by Zimbabweans, who took to the streets in the hundreds of thousands at the weekend to demand Mugabe's resignation, and again on Tuesday night to celebrate when he quit.


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