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Zimbabwe's Mnangagwa calls for unity in ruling party

President Emmerson Mnangagwa urges ZANU-PF party members to eschew divisions left over from Robert Mugabe's resignation.

Emmerson Mnangagwa

Zimbabwe's newly appointed president has called for the country's ruling party to protect itself against factional divisions after tension within ZANU-PF reached its peak last month just before the resignation of longtime leader Robert Mugabe.

Addressing delegates at a special extraordinary congress on Friday, Emmerson Mnangagwa urged ZANU-PF party members to remain vigilant against internal divisions that risk leading the party astray.

"We must never lower our guard again. We must defend and protect our party and remain genuine to the founding principles … against people with very little history," Mnangagwa said, referring to the events that led to Mugabe's removal in November.

Over 7,000 delegates from across the country attended the congress, which was organised to confirm Mnangagwa as the party's first secretary and its presidential candidate ahead of 2018 elections.

READ MORE: Disappointment as Mnangagwa names new cabinet

Mnangagwa told the crowd the elections would take place "on schedule" and expressed his hope that the polls would respect "the rule of law".

Internal rivalries were heightened within the party last month amid speculation that Mugabe was grooming his wife, Grace, to succeed him.

The situation worsened when Mugabe purged former Zimbabwean liberation fighters from key positions in his government, a move that prompted Mnangagwa, then acting as vice president, to flee the country.

A long-running power struggle between Mnangagwa, 75, and Grace Mugabe ended with her expulsion from the ZANU-PF, which Mugabe led for 40 years.

Mnangagwa was sworn in as Zimbabwe's new president on November 24, shortly after Mugabe stepped down.

Lifting sanctions

This week, Mnangagwa said he was eager to build new relations with the international community, as he called for the "unconditional lifting" of Western sanctions against senior members of ZANU-PF.

Travel bans and asset freezes were placed on top party officials at the height of political violence and state-sanctioned land-grabs of white-owned farms in the early 2000s.

While the US maintains sanctions on several ZANU-PF party figures and some government-owned companies, the European Union has kept a travel ban and asset freeze on both former president Mugabe and his wife, Grace.

Mnangagwa said his administration would do its best to ensure Zimbabwe was on the path to free, fair and credible elections in 2018.

Shortly after taking his oath of office, Mnangagwa reversed the seizure of a white-owned commercial farm that was taken over earlier this year.

He has also pledged to compensate thousands of white farmers who were evicted from their farming estates by landless black Zimbabweans as part of a fast-track land-reform programme.

Focus on economy

During the congress, Mnangagwa reiterated his inaugural promise of a new era of racial and tribal tolerance as well as prosperity for ordinary Zimbabweans.

He urged the party to shift from an overtly political agenda to one that would also focus on the economy.

"We must not be about politics only but economy also," he said.

"The best politics emerges from the marketplace where livelihoods are made.

"I did not rise to the presidency to be a president of one tribe or to benefit one region; my presidency is about acting on the values of ZANU-PF with a national outlook. I am a president of all people, of all tribes," he added to cheers from the crowd.

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