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Zimbabwe’s incoming president Emmerson Mnangagwa gestures as he speaks at Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF party headquarters in Harare on Wednesday. Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe’s former vice president, flew home to assume the presidency after Robert Mugabe resigned, ending his 37-year rule. Photo: AFP


Zimbabwe's incoming president Emmerson Mnangagwa was preparing Thursday to take power after the shock resignation of Robert Mugabe as president.

Mnangagwa, who has close ties to the army and the security establishment, returned to the country on Wednesday to take the reins, and told adoring crowds in Harare that they were witnessing "unfolding full democracy."

He will be sworn in as president at an inauguration ceremony Friday, officials said.

The speech was his first since Mugabe fired him as vice president on November 6 over a succession tussle with the former first lady, a move that prompted the military's intervention to force Mugabe from power, leading to his resignation on Tuesday.

"Today we are witnessing the beginning of a new and unfolding full democracy in our country," he said in front of hundreds of supporters, some wearing shirts emblazoned with images of the 75-year-old leader.

"We want to grow our economy, we want jobs... all patriotic Zimbabweans [should] come together, work together," he said.

He was surrounded by a large security detail and arrived at the headquarters of the ruling ZANU-PF party in a presidential-style motorcade.

Mugabe was granted immunity from prosecution and assured that his safety would be protected in his home country as part of a deal that led to his resignation, sources close to the negotiations said on Thursday.

A government source said Mugabe, who is 93, told negotiators he wanted to die in Zimbabwe and had no plans to live in exile.

"It was very emotional for him and he was forceful about it," said the source, who is not authorized to speak on the details of the negotiated settlement.

"For him it was very important that he be guaranteed security to stay in the country...although that will not stop him from traveling abroad when he wants to or has to," the source said.

"The outgoing president is obviously aware of the public hostility to his wife, the anger in some circles about the manner in which she conducted herself and approached ZANU-PF party politics," a second source said.