Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the country will hold transparent elections by July and he would respect the result if the opposition wins.
The election will be the first real test of his legitimacy since he took power in November when the military ousted Robert Mugabe who ruled for 37 years. It will also test the country’s electoral system after complaints of rigging at previous elections.
Mnangagwa (75) told the World Economic Forum in Davos the nation was “open for business”.
Government spending ballooned under Mugabe and was in part used as patronage. More than 90% of the budget went on civil service salaries, leaving little extra for investment needed to boost growth.
In the latter part of Mugabe’s rule, Zimbabwe’s economy collapsed, particularly after violent and chaotic seizures of thousands of white-owned commercial farms.
The issuance of billions of dollars of domestic debt to pay for a bloated civil service also triggered a collapse in the value of the currency and fuelled galloping inflation.
Mnangagwa said he would welcome former commercial farmers back. “We don’t want to think along racial lines, that is a philosophy of the past. Farmers are farmers,” he said.
Some former Mugabe cabinet ministers have been charged with corruption and Mnangagwa said Mugabe would not be immune from prosecution.
“We have not given anyone any immunity,” he said adding Mugabe was given a “very lucrative package” including a salary, allowances and first-class travel.
“We will do everything to allow the Mugabe family to live in peace and undisturbed,” he said.