Harare - Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose removal as vice president by Robert Mugabe led to the veteran leader's ouster, was sworn in as Zimbabwe's new president on Friday.
"I Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa swear that as the president of the republic of Zimbabwe I will be faithful to Zimbabwe and obey, uphold and defend the constitution and all other laws of Zimbabwe," he said as he took the oath of office before the chief justice, watched by a jubilant crowd of tens of thousands of people.
Snipers took up positions around the stadium amid tight security as jubilant Mnangagwa supporters streamed in, with many dancing as music played.
"We are excited and expecting a lot from Mnangagwa. We have been under a dictatorship for a very long time," 23-year-old Sharon Mauyakufa said, referring to Mugabe.
"Mugabe is very old - we do not expect that he will be punished for his crimes. How do you punish a 93-year-old? But his wife and others must be charged if they committed crimes."
The former president, who ruled the southern African country for 37 autocratic years, was ousted from office when the military intervened after he had sacked Mnangagwa as vice president.
"We thank you our soldier," said one banner in the sports ground.
Mnangagwa, 75, said this week that Zimbabweans were witnessing "a new and unfolding full democracy", though critics say he is a Zanu-PF hardliner who gained power in a de facto military coup.
He is known as "The Crocodile" for his ruthlessness and is accused of overseeing ethnic massacres by the army in the 1980s and the 2008 election violence when Mugabe was at risk of losing the vote.