Zimbabwe president promises elections by July and says will respect result

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

President Emmerson Mnangagwa

President Emmerson Mnangagwa of Zimbabwe says he has not granted former First Lady Grace Mugabe immunity from prosecution.

Questioned whether he would allow observer missions from the likes of the European Union (EU) in, he answered: "If you have that criteria, why would you want to deny global observers coming to our country?"

The election will be the first big test of his legitimacy since he took power in November when the military ousted Robert Mugabe who ruled for 37 years. While the world's two biggest platinum companies, South Africa's Anglo American Platinum Ltd. and Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd., operate mines in Zimbabwe, they have slowed investment plans because of concern over the ownership law.

The worldwide community will be closely watching the vote, which is seen as a litmus test of Mnangagwa's democratic credentials and is key to unlocking badly needed financial assistance and repairing relations with Western powers and global financial institutions. "We want to have free, fair, and credible elections, free of violence".

Mnangagwa, 75, was one of Mugabe's closest long-term allies in the ruling Zanu-PF party, and he is accused of playing a key role in Mugabe's authoritarian regime that left the economy in ruins.

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Zimbabwe has given cabinet ministers and senior government officials until the end of February to declare their assets as new President Emmerson Mnangagwa seeks to foster transparency and fight corruption. "Down the line when we are satisfied that this can also go into the open basket we will do so".

There have been reports that Mugabe was given a 10 million USA dollars retirement package but Mnangagwa denied this.

The southern African nation became a pariah under Mugabe when it defaulted on its foreign debt in 1999 and was slapped with Western sanctions over alleged vote rigging and the violent seizure of white-owned farms.

Unlike his predecessor Mugabe who reportedly lost the 2008 elections to opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai of the Movement for Democratic Change, but refused to leave office, Mnangagwa said he would leave if the electorate rejected him and his party. The country has since suffered mass unemployment and emigration.

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