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Mugabe takes oath as Zimbabwe president to brace for challenges ahead

English.news.cn   2013-08-23 05:02:31            

By Wang Yue and Gretinah Machingura

HARARE, Aug. 22 (Xinhua) -- Zimbabwe's veteran President Robert Mugabe was sworn into office on Thursday for another five-year term against the backdrop of Western rejection of his election victory.

Mugabe, 89, was sworn in at a grand ceremony that was strikingly different from the hastily arranged and small ceremony of 2008.

No foreign heads of state attended his inauguration in 2008, but this year, several heads of state and government attended the ceremony, including Equatorial Guinea's Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, Mauritius' Rajkeswur Purryag, Mozambique's Armando Guebuza, Tanzania's Jakaya Kikwete, Namibia's Hifikepunye Pohamba and the Democratic Republic of Congo's Joseph Kabila.

Mugabe's re-election in the July 31 vote has been widely endorsed by countries in Africa and beyond, while the West led by the U.S. and Britain has refused to accept his victory, alleging the elections were flawed.

Mugabe declared Thursday a national holiday to allow Zimbabweans to celebrate and attend the inauguration ceremony.

This time, he decided to take the oath in style by abandoning the traditional State House venue for an elaborate event at the 60, 000-seat national stadium in Harare.

The occasion was not only graced by some former African leaders, but foreign musicians as well who added flavor and glamour to the occasion.

Mugabe's inauguration this year came after 18 days of being announced winner, nine more days after the stipulated inauguration day.

The delay was due to a legal challenge by his main rival Morgan Tsvangirai, who alleged vote rigging by Mugabe and his party.

Tsvangirai boycotted Mugabe's swearing in ceremony Thursday.

With a new mandate to govern, several challenges surround Mugabe's new five-year term that include advanced age and associated health problems, a poor performing economy and strained relations with the West.

In a speech after the inauguration, Mugabe bemoaned that the Western sanctions will remain in place for much longer and thus will continue to curtail the full economic potential of the country.

He, however, said he would intensify mineral exploitation to propel economic growth and improve living standards of people.

He said he will continue with the indigenization and economic empowerment program to redistribute wealth to local people.

Under the program, foreign owned firms including mines and banks are required to cede 51 percent shareholding to locals.

Mugabe said the country's natural resources must come under total ownership of locals.

"Our natural resources have not yet fully come our way. The time has now come for us to extend our dominion to all these resources," he said.

While Mugabe has outlined how he plans to revive the economy battered by liquidity challenges, low investment levels and high unemployment, some believe the veteran ruler will find the task difficult to overcome.

Economic analyst Vince Musewe told Xinhua that Mugabe's biggest challenge will be to revitalize the sluggish economy in the absence of significant foreign capital inflows.

Zimbabweans have first to see who Mugabe appoints as ministers and if it is the old guard that has largely been useless, then the country cannot expect any change in governance, he said.

He said the country needs investment and jobs, indicating this would increase disposable incomes and revive industry and agriculture.

"We need to see infrastructure development, consistent energy supplies and access to basic needs improving," he said.

Musewe said getting the money to revamp the economy will be another Mugabe's challenge.

According to him, the veteran leader must first build confidence locally and then internationally.

"Failing that I expect no major changes and more of the same: an economy operating on survival mode, no liquidity and a subsistence attitude by all," he said.

Analysts also contend that another setback for Mugabe will be the continued imposition of Western sanctions on the country.

Mugabe said Thursday following peaceful and credible elections in the country, there was no justification for the continued imposition of the sanctions.

"What is the excuse for these sanctions? Whose interests are those sanctions meant to serve?" he said.

Mugabe has also continued to confound pessimists over his health, who at 89, continues to show rare strength and alertness.

A senior member of his party and outgoing justice minister Patrick Chinamasa recently said Mugabe was a lucky man health wise.

"God gave him good health and for a person at 89 years," Chinamasa said. "He is very clear. He is in good health for a man of his age."

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Editor: Fu Peng
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