Zimbabwe's incoming leader hails start of 'new and unfolding democracy'

Emmerson Mnangagwa will be sworn in on Friday - three days after Robert Mugabe resigned

Zimbabwe's incoming leader hails start of 'new and unfolding democracy'

Zimbabwe's President in waiting Emmerson Mnangagwa, center, greets supporters gathered outside the Zanu-PF party headquarters in Harare, Zimbabwe. Picture by: Ben Curtis/AP/Press Association Images

Updated 20.55

Zimbabwe's incoming leader has hailed the start of the country’s "new and unfolding democracy" as he made his return from exile.

Addressing supporters hours after returning to Harare, Emmerson Mnangagwa pledged to create jobs and kickstart the faltering Zimbabwean economy.

The 75-year-old will be sworn in as president on Friday - two weeks after he was sacked as vice president by longtime ruler Robert Mugabe and fled to South Africa.

Mr Mnangagwa said: "I pledge myself to be your servant. I appeal to all genuine patriotic Zimbabweans to come together. We work together. No-one is more important than the other - we are all Zimbabweans.

"We want to grow our economy. We want peace in our country. We want jobs, jobs, jobs in our country."

The President-designate claimed he left Zimbabwe after being informed of plans to "eliminate me", adding that he was "subjected to poisoning" in August.

To loud cheers, he referred to "former president Robert Mugabe" and said: "The people have spoken. The voice of the people is the voice of God."

After emerging from hiding in South Africa, Mr Mnangagwa met with South African President Jacob Zuma and flew to Zimbabwe in a private jet.

He then met other politicians and officials from ruling party ZANU-PF and was briefed on "what has been happening in his absence", chief whip Lovemore Matuke said.

Speaking to supporters outside the party headquarters, Mr Mnangagwa revealed he had been in constant contact with military leaders during his exile.

He also praised the military and General Constantino Chiwenga, commander of Zimbabwe Defence Forces, for "managing this process very peacefully".

Mr Mnangagwa's dismissal on 6 October plunged the country into a political crisis and prompted military chiefs to take control of the capital and place Mr Mugabe under house arrest.

The 93-year-old initially refused to stand down, but tendered his resignation on Tuesday after impeachment proceedings were launched by the national parliament.

Mr Mugabe had ruled Zimbabwe since 1980 and was, prior to his resignation, the world's oldest head of state.

Under his presidency, the southern African country's economy collapsed and unemployment rose to more than 90%.

Mugabe's regime had also been accused of a range of human rights violations.