Zimbabwe’s ruling party has sealed the fate of ousted president Robert Mugabe amid cheers and singing at a Zanu-PF party congress.
It officially endorsed its Central Committee’s decision to replace Mugabe with Emmerson Mnangagwa as its leader and endorsed Mr Mnangagwa as its candidate for the 2018 elections.
He was inaugurated as the country’s new president last month, with the immediate challenge of reviving a shattered economy and removing himself from his mentor’s shadow.
Mugabe was revered for decades but removed from power in dramatic scenes last month.
Friday’s meeting was the final step in his fall from grace after the military put him under house arrest, hundreds of thousands rallied in the streets and politicians began impeachment proceedings.
Under the growing pressure, the 93-year-old who had vowed to rule for life finally resigned.
He had led the party since 1975 and the country since independence from white minority rule in 1980.
Images of Mugabe’s face, usually plastered on delegates’ dress and other paraphernalia, were conspicuously missing from the congress.
Mugabe himself flew to Malaysia and Singapore earlier this week to visit family and seek medical treatment in his first overseas trip since last month’s events.
The 75-year-old Mr Mnangagwa at his inauguration described Mugabe as a “father, comrade-in-arms and my leader”.
That is despite his firing by Mugabe as vice president early last month that set events in motion amid concerns that unpopular first lady Grace Mugabe might succeed him.
Mugabe’s time was up the moment he surrendered power to his wife, some ruling party delegates said.
The congress endorsed Mrs Mugabe being fired from the party.
Now Mr Mnangagwa must find a way to revive the severely weakened economy and win over voters ahead of elections that according to the constitution should be held in July or August.
He told the congress gathering that the vote will be held as scheduled, without mentioning a date.
The opposition, shut out of Mr Mnangagwa’s Cabinet in favour of military and ruling party members, has joined the United States and others in the international community in urging Zimbabwe’s new government to make sure the elections are democratic.
Mr Mnangagwa, sanctioned by the US years ago for his activities as a top Mugabe aide, said again that the government will do all in its power to make sure the elections are “credible, free and fair”.
On Thursday, he called for long standing sanctions to be lifted to ease foreign investment and promised measures to make the once-prosperous southern African nation “a place where capital feels safe”.