Emmerson Mnangagwa appealed for national unity and promised compensation for dispossessed white farmers as he sought to draw a line under the Robert Mugabe era in his inaugural speech as president of Zimbabwe.
Mr Mnangagwa was sworn in as the second president of Zimbabwe with a 21 gun salute, marching troops, and dancing children just ten days after the country’s military launched a coup that led to the resignation of Mr Mugabe, who had ruled the country for 37 years, earlier this week.
In an address to 60,000 people in Harare’s national stadium, he praised Mr Mugabe as his mentor and a “founding father” of the nation, but in a tacit rebuke called on the international community to lift sanctions in recognition of the country’s “new start.”
"For me personally he is a mentor, father, comrade in arms, and my leader," Mr Mnangagwa said of the outgoing president.
"While we cannot change the past, there is a lot we can do in the present and the future to give our nation a different positive direction," he added.
Mr Mugabe, 93 did not attend the lavish inauguration ceremony in Harare's National Stadium on Friday morning. His spokesman said that he needed to rest.
Under overcast skies and watched by 60,000 spectators from the stands, Mr Mnangagwa swore to uphold the Zimbabwean constitution and defend the country's 16 million citizens.
It was the first time since the independence ceremony of April 18 1980, that a crowd of all political parties, races, and creeds gathered to hear the speech of the leader of Zimbabwe.
Service chiefs including Gen Constanino Chiwenga, the armed forces commander who orchestrated the coup that ousted Mr Mugabe, lined up to swear allegiance to Mr Mnangagwa after he had taken the oath.
Edgar Lungu, the president of Zambia, and Botswana’s Ian Khama, who regularly criticized Mr Mugabe over the torture and mistreatment of opposition leaders, flew in to attend the ceremony.
Jacob Zuma, the president of South Africa, the most influential regional power, did not attend.
Rory Stewart, the UK's Africa Minister, who is in Zimbabwe, was also absent.
The ceremony was attended by Morgan Tsvangirai, the former prime minister and leader of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, and Joice Mujuru, another opposition leader.
Mr Mnangagwa, who became leader of the ruling Zanu PF party over the weekend, made explicit promises to fix both Zimbabwe's "poisoned" political environment and its dysfunctional economy.
“I am not oblivious to the many Zimbabweans across the political and racial divide who helped make this day happen, and thus have legitimate expectations of the office I now occupy,” he said, in an apparent acknowledgement of the vast numbers of opposition supporters who marched against Mr Mugabe in Harare on Saturday.
He said “free and fair” elections will go ahead as scheduled next year when the current five year presidential term, which Mr Mugabe began in 2013, ends.
Timeline Robert Mugabe as leader of Zimbabwe
Turning to the economy, he said he would invite foreign direct investment in an effort to stimulate "job job job creation" - a pledge that brought a loud cheer - and called for the EU and the United States to drop sanctions against top military and Zanu PF figures.
"All foreign investment will be safe in Zimbabwe," said Mnangagwa, addressing fears following moves by Mr Mugabe to nationalize the country's lucrative resources such as diamonds, platinum, gold and chrome.
He also said that the "redistribution" of white-owned farms would not be reversed but said his incoming government would be "committed to compensating farmers from whom land was taken."
Zimbabwe already runs a compensation scheme introduced last year that sees tenants on "redistributed" land pay rent to the state which is in theory used to compensate evicted farmers, but it has been criticised as effectively unaffordable for new tenants.
The ceremony came as troubling details emerged about the arrest of ministers in the previous government.
Ignatius Chombo, the finance minister in Mr Mugabe’s government, was admitted to hospital with injuries sustained from beatings while in military custody, his lawyer said.
Mr Chombo has not been seen since he was arrested in the military coup that unfolded in Zimbabwe on the night of November 14.
Human rights groups have expressed concern about the treatment of a number of political allies of Grace Mugabe, the former first lady, who were arrested in the coup.
The families of Saviour Kasukwere, the regional government minister, and Jonathan Moyo, the tertiary education minister, have reported military raids on the their homes and arbitrary arrests in the days since the coup.
Mr Kasukwere and Mr Moyo themselves are believed to have left the country.
The speech drew a mixed reaction on the streets of Harare.
“It was ok. It was nice to see and watch. But let’s see what he does. We are very happy Mugabe has gone. But can he fix it? Today is a working day for us." said a vendor selling mobile phones at a traffic light in central Harare.
”We have no jobs, we have nothing to show for our years as Zimbabwe. Don’t believe our schools are ok - they are not. I have a child out of school because I cannot afford the fees,” added the man, who declined to give his name.
"We heard what he said. The hatred is not there any more. But where is the proof? Where is the money in the banks?” said Alice Mokwena, a part time job as a cleaner.
The first sign of optimism after Mr Mnangagwa’s speech was a drop in the black market rate for swipe cards and phone credit, a defacto-currency for many in the country, against US dollars. The Zimbabwe dollar disappeared in 2009 when it lost all value after years of hyperinflation.
“The rate has been slipping the last few days and is now a further 10 percent down,” said a small currency trader. “I am not sure how long this will last."