The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: President Sworn in, Appeals for Unity

Harare — PRESIDENT Mugabe was yesterday sworn in as Head of State following his massive victory in last Friday's presidential election run-off.

Speaking after taking the Oath of Office and Loyalty at State House, President Mugabe said it was now imperative for the nation to look forward to the future with a sense of unity and reiterated his call for comprehensive inter-party dialogue.

"The elections have come and gone. Our challenge today and in the years ahead is to move forward in unity, regardless of our diverse political affiliations, united by the sense of a common vision and destiny for a prosperous Zimbabwe.

"Indeed, it is my hope that sooner rather than later, we shall, as diverse political parties, hold consultations towards such serious dialogue as will minimise our differences and enhance the area of unity and co-operation," Cde Mugabe said after being sworn in by Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku.

The latest call for unity comes amid reports from well-placed insiders that opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was yesterday trying to seek audience with President Mugabe before the latter left for an African Union summit in Egypt.

In his victory speech, President Mugabe paid tribute to his South African counterpart, Mr Thabo Mbeki, for the role he played in the inter-party dialogue that led to the harmonised elections and the run-off.

"We are grateful to Sadc, and the role of statesmanship played by President Thabo Mbeki, the Sadc-appointed mediator of the inter-party dialogue between Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations. Zimbabwe is indebted to his untiring efforts to promote harmony and peace.

"Indeed, this last election saw certain constitutional amendments he facilitated in the inter-party dialogue getting their first application.

"I also wish to acknowledge the support we received from many African states, members of the Non-Aligned Movement, allies and friends in the United Nations Security Council and other progressive movements and thank them for their unwavering solidarity with us as we continue to face the vicious onslaught by Britain and its allies," he said.

"Today, we are able to say all constitutional requirements with regard to the elections have been fulfilled. Thus, we are delighted to celebrate this day, delighted also that we stuck to the letter of our Constitution and electoral laws.

"On behalf of my party, Zanu-PF, and all progressive Zimbabweans; on behalf of my family and, indeed, on my own behalf, I am honoured and humbled by the faith and confidence our people have, once more, reposed in me.

"I am, indeed, grateful to the people of our great country for their brave and unyielding stand in defence of their sovereignty, their resources and destiny."

President Mugabe said the outcome of the poll had shamed the country's detractors and had dealt a huge blow to "incorrigible racism".

He thanked the millions who supported him throughout the campaign and expressed his sorrow that some had lost their lives and property prior to the elections despite the best efforts of law enforcement authorities who managed to preserve peace during voting.

"Finally, I wish to assure our people that, as Government, we shall remain very much people-oriented and, thus, proceed to fully empower them across the board, and sector by sector, as it takes effective measures to improve the economy and living standards.

"We shall remain cognisant of the bidding that comes from our conscience, that Zimbabwe shall never be a colony. Long live Zimbabwe," he said.

Government and party officials, service chiefs, traditional chiefs, members of the diplomatic corps and religious leaders thronged State House to witness the inauguration.

The swearing-in ceremony started with a 21-gun salute followed by a convocation by Anglican Bishop Nolbert Kunonga in which he praised President Mugabe for his steadfast defence of the country's heritage.

The Commander of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, General Constantine Chiwenga, Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri and Commissioner of Prisons Paradzayi Zimondi pledged their loyalty to the Head of State and the country afterwards.

A Presidential Guard of Honour, as is the norm, promised to defend the country with their own blood.

In an interview with The Herald after the ceremony, Mr Gabriel Chaibva, the spokesperson for the Arthur Mutambara-led MDC formation, said it was time to put aside differences and work for the good of the people.

"I know there will be criticism because I attended this ceremony. But in times like this it is crucial to put the past behind us and show the spirit of constructive engagement and dialogue as the only way forward. Victory is sweet and defeat is bitter, but as leaders we must learn to accept both and work for the good of the people.

"So in a small way, we are sending our message that it is time for a new spirit to govern the manner in which we engage each other," he said.

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