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Zimbabwe's President Appeals for Ruling Party Unity

Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa speaks during the Extraordinary Congress of the ruling ZANU-PF party in Harare, Zimbabwe, Dec. 15,2017.

Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa appealed Friday to his ZANU-PF party to unite ahead of next year's elections.

Mnangagwa spoke to about 6,000 delegates at a ZANU-PF congress after delegates endorsed him as the party's leader and its candidate for the 2018 elections.

The party was divided for years over who should succeed longtime president Robert Mugabe. Mnangagwa took office less than a month ago, after the army forced Mugabe to step down.

The new president spoke of the challenges the country faces as his government tries to revive a moribund economy.

"The task at hand is that of rebuilding our great country," he said. "The government will leave no stone unturned to fully explore rich resources."

Mnangagwa did not castigate his predecessor, whom he had worked with for more than 50 years before being fired, purportedly for showing disloyalty to Mugabe.

Mnangagwa appealed for patience on economic matters, and he asked businesses and officials to shun corruption and unreasonable price increases.

'Turn over a new leaf'

"Let us look forward with hope and love. Let bygones be bygones," he said. "However, let those who have been forgiven should not think we have forgotten. Let us turn over a new leaf and renew ourselves."

As Mnangagwa was speaking at Robert Gabriel Mugabe Square, several of his former allies were appearing before a judge at Harare Magistrates Court.

The defendants face criminal nuisance charges for wearing ZANU-PF hats on social media after being kicked out of the party.

They included Ignatius Chombo, who was finance minister when Mugabe fired Mnangagwa as vice president on November 5, triggering the events that led to Mugabe's downfall. This was the second time Chombo had been arrested since Mnangagwa came into office.

Lovemore Madhuku, Chombo's attorney, said, "It is very likely that we may be under military rule. This is exactly the way the courts were operating under President Mugabe. And we see just that. Unless there is a signal to change, we will just be in for a very difficult scenario."

Madhuku wants the court to dismiss his client's case, saying Mnangagwa was trying to punish all those who supported former first lady Grace Mugabe, who was Mnangagwa's main rival in the fight to succeed Robert Mugabe.

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