December 28, 2017 / 8:44 AM / 8 months ago

Zimbabwe ex-army boss sworn in as Mugabe gets diplomat's rights

HARARE (Reuters) - The army chief who led the bloodless coup that ended Robert Mugabe’s 37-year rule was installed as Zimbabwe’s vice president on Thursday, becoming the most senior of a clutch of military figures to enter government.

Retired Commander of Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) General Constatino Chiwenga takes an oath of office as Vice President during the swearing in ceremony at State House in Harare, Zimbabwe, December 28, 2017. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Retired general Constantino Chiwenga’s appearance on state television on Nov. 15 preceded armed soldiers taking to the streets, paving the way for Emmerson Mnangagwa to become president hours later.

Mnangagwa, a former chief lieutenant to Mugabe who has promised to push through economic and political reforms, on Thursday also granted his 93-year-old predecessor full diplomatic status and a staff of 23 under a pension settlement.

Retired Commander of Zimbabwe Defence Forces (ZDF) General Constatino Chiwenga is congratulated by Chief Justice Luke Malaba after takin an oath of office as Vice President during the swearing in ceremony at State House in Harare, Zimbabwe, December 28, 2017. REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

The president’s governing ZANU-PF party this month moved to draw a line under the era of Mugabe, who during his decades in power became feared as a despot and presided over economic collapse, by formally expelling the ex-president’s wife Grace and her allies from the organization.

But Mnangagwa, who himself stands accused of participating in repression, has steered clear of acts of retribution against the former president.

Mugabe has been living at his private home in the plush Borrowdale suburb, and the pension entitles him to “payment of a lump sum which is equal or equivalent to the value of the private residence”, according to the official government gazette.

In a statement in the gazette, Mnangagwa said ex-presidents who have served at least one full term - a category that includes only Mugabe - were also entitled to six security personnel and a fully furnished office.

Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa talks to the Chief Justice Luke Malaba during the swearing in ceremony of the country's vice presidents at State House in Harare, Zimbabwe, December 28, 2017.REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo

Mnangagwa is under pressure from would-be foreign investors, opposition parties and ordinary Zimbabweans to implement reforms.

But he is also looking to maintain a unified ZANU-PF as the dominant political force and keep relations with its powerful military smooth in the run-up to national elections scheduled for next year.

Mugabe, who built a reputation for extensive international travel during his rule, will also be provided with a diplomatic passport.

Two weeks ago, in first trip outside Zimbabwe since he was removed from office, he visited a hospital in Singapore, apparently for medical checks.

Reporting by Alfonce Mbizwo; Writing by Mfuneko Toyana; Editing by Kevin Liffey and John Stonestreet

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