Relatives of victims of state-sponsored violence said they were concerned about the track record of the new leader, Emmerson Mnangagwa, who was Mugabe’s righthand man and is blamed for the brutal suppression of political opposition parties during elections in 2008.
“Just because [Mnangagwa] has wrestled power from the devil does not mean I see him as the messiah,” said Patson Dzamara, whose activist brother Itai was abducted in 2015 and has not been heard of since.
“So many have been killed, maimed, tortured or imprisoned, and the ones who are presiding over this transition are the ones responsible.” he added.
Mugabe, whose 37-year rule over the impoverished southern African country was marked by brutal repression, stepped down after a military takeover led to mass protests and impeachment proceedings in parliament.
In his inauguration speech in a packed national stadium in Harare on Friday, Mnangagwa, the 75-year-old stalwart of the ruling Zanu-PF party, said he would govern for all “patriotic Zimbabweans” and promised elections would be held as scheduled next year.
He did not mention lifting restrictions on freedom of expression, or any measures to weaken the grip of the feared internal security services he helped set up following Zimbabwe’s independence from white-minority rule in 1980.
The new president was minister of justice when Itai Dzamara was pushed into a vehicle by unknown men, and has been accused of involvement in the killings of more than 20,000 civilians in the south of Zimbabwe in the 1980s.