HARARE (Reuters) – Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa told foreign investors on Friday that his ruling ZANU-PF party would still be in power after the July elections and dismissed the political opposition as “barking puppies”.
The 75-year-old Mnangagwa was propelled into office in November after a de facto military coup ended 94-year-old Robert Mugabe’s near four decades rule.
Mnangagwa has set July 30 for presidential, parliamentary and council elections, which he is counting on to bolster his legitimacy as he pursues a promised break with Mugabe’s repressive policies while trying to woo investors.
He told thousands of party supporters in Chegutu town, 100 km (60 miles) west of the capital Harare, that his government was handling many investment requests from Europe, Asia and Arab countries.
“Yes, there are those who come to scout and make arrangements and say ‘we would like to come in immediately after elections’. Then we say ‘you can wait if you want, but those who want to be early birds go ahead’,” Mnangagwa said in a speech in the local Shona broadcast on state television.
“Things are not going to change. Nothing will be different, ZANU-PF is in power and will continue in power.”
The military justified its action in November saying it wanted to remove criminals around Mugabe and arrested some cabinet ministers for corruption.
Mnangagwa’s main challenger in the July vote is 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa, leader of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), who says the president will not win a free vote.
The MDC said it will hold a peaceful march next Tuesday to demand reforms it says will ensure a credible vote.
“Wherever we go in all provinces, there are multitudes of people, so why should we fight with puppies. Let them bark and continue to bark,” Mnangagwa said.
On Friday, Savior Kasukuwere, a former Mugabe loyalist who opposed Mnangagwa’s rise appeared in court charged with illegally leaving the country after the November coup. He returned to Zimbabwe last week after months in self-imposed exile.
Kasukuwere was set free after posting $300 bail.
Reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe; Editing by Richard Balmforth