"I will well and truly serve Zimbabwe in the office of prime minister,"
Tsvangirai said as he took his oath of office from Mugabe under a white
tent in the lawn of the presidential mansion.
Former South African president Thabo Mbeki, who mediated in the
power-sharing talks, attended the ceremony along with Mozambican
President Armando Guebuza and Swazi King Mswati III.
After the swearing-in, Tsvangirai planned to address his supporters in
a stadium, with a speech that will celebrate but also need to reassure.
Tsvangirai’s decision to bring his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
into the unity government has raised doubts overseas and sparked fierce
debate within his own party.
The former trade union leader is all too aware of the concerns that he,
like earlier Mugabe rivals, could be swallowed into the long-ruling
ZANU-PF party without changing the course of a nation that is by any
"The sceptics must understand why we have done this and what is the
best course of action to address the questions and challenges of
transition in this political environment," Tsvangirai said on the eve
of his swearing-in.
"We have made this decision and we made it without being forced. We
want our colleagues in the country and outside the country to approach
it from that perspective. It is our decision. Let history be the judge
of this decision," he said.
His swearing-in will cap nearly a year of turmoil that began last
March, when Tsvangirai won a first-round presidential vote that was
greeted with nationwide political violence, mostly against his
Hoping to end the unrest that left at least 180 dead, Tsvangirai pulled
out of the run-off and left Mugabe to claim a one-sided victory
denounced as a sham overseas.
South Africa brokered the unity deal, which was signed on September 15
but stalled amid protracted talks on how to divide cabinet posts and
share control of the security forces.
Those concerns were finally addressed when the parties agreed to name
co-ministers to home affairs, which oversees the police, and to create
a new National Security Council that will allow all parties control of
the security forces.
But analysts question how such an arrangement can work with the
84-year-old Mugabe, who has ruled since independence in 1980 and who
just recently declared that "Zimbabwe is mine."
"Tsvangirai’s swearing-in symbolises a new era for the people of
Zimbabwe," said Daniel Makina, a political analyst at the University of
"Whether the inclusive government will be a success or not is another matter."
The challenges facing Zimbabwe would daunt even the most experienced of administrators.
More than half the population needs emergency food aid. Unemployment is
at 94 percent. Only 20 percent of children go to school because
teachers haven’t been paid and exams not graded.
Public hospitals are closed, with doctors and nurses unpaid,
exacerbating a health crisis in a nation where 1.3 million people have
HIV and cholera has hit nearly 70,000 people since August, killing
"We only hope that his appointment will stem the tide of economic and
humanitarian decline. But the lingering question is how effective are
his powers going to be," Makina said of Tsvangirai. – Sapa-AFP