Robert Mugabe was Thursday sworn in for seventh time as Zimbabwe’s President and leader for another five years term in the face of criticism from opponents that his election victory in July was deeply flawed.
He took his new oath of office before Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku at a ceremony in a 60,000-seat football stadium in Harare witnessed by thousands of cheering supporters, diplomats and delegations from the region.
The inauguration which was delayed by a court petition filed by his main rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, over allegations of widespread electoral fraud was celebrated with a public holiday to allow supporters of the 89-year-old to attend the inauguration.
Mugabe won the election with 61 per cent of the total votes against the 34 per cent received byTsvangirai’s party on 31 July.
Announcing his victory, the 89-year-old said that his party had won “a resounding mandate” from voters to complete a sweeping “black empowerment” programme taking over foreign and white-owned assets.
Earlier, international bodies and countries including Britain and United States, the Movement for Democracy Change led by Tsvangiraiand the Zimbabwe Election Support Network claimed that the election process was fraudulent.
But the African Union said that any irregularities were not enough to overturn the margin of victory.
“I have grave concerns over the conduct of the election, and the flaws highlighted in the South African Development Community (Sadc) and African Union observation missions’ initial assessments,” UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement on Thursday.
However, all the claims were dismissed by constitutional court on Tuesday, declaring Mugabe’s re-election free, fair and credible.
Tsvangirai, boycotted the inauguration. His spokesman, Luke Tamborinyoka, told AFP that expecting him to attend the ceremony “is like expecting a victim of robbery to attend a party hosted by the robber.”
Mugabe served as Zimbabwe’s first post-independence prime minister between 1980 and 1987, and has held office as president ever since thus remaining African oldest leader.