Mnangagwa tells Mugabe he and his family will be safe in Zimbabwe

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Mnangagwa (L), arrives for the burial of liberation war hero Don Muvuti at the national heroes acre in Harare, Zimbabwe, November 1, 2017. (EPA Photo)
Mnangagwa (L), arrives for the burial of liberation war hero Don Muvuti at the national heroes acre in Harare, Zimbabwe, November 1, 2017. (EPA Photo)

Incoming Zimbabwe leader Emmerson Mnangagwa assured former president Robert Mugabe he and his family would be safe in the country when the two men spoke for the first time since Mnangagwa returned home this week, state media said on Friday.

The State-owned The Herald newspaper said Mugabe and Mnangagwa, who is set to be sworn in as president later on Friday, had agreed that the former leader may not attend the swearing-in ceremony because he was tired.

93-year-old Mugabe, who led the southern African nation for 37 years, resigned Tuesday in the wake of a bloodless military coup that saw him placed under house arrest.

Mnangagwa, 75, is Mugabe's former deputy and long-time comrade and was hotly tipped to replace him.

However he was accused of "disloyalty" and sacked earlier this month after he came into conflict with Mugabe's ambitious wife Grace, who also wished to take over from her increasingly doddery husband.

The axing of the man known as "The Crocodile" was a tactical error on Mugabe's part as Mnangagwa had the backing of the military.

Zimbabweans have widely support the military takeover as Mugabe, once a hero of the liberation struggle, had grown unpopular for alleged human rights abuses and economic malaise.

However some analysts worry the Mnangagwa might be more of the same as he heralds from the ruling party establishment.

The opposition Movement for Democratic Change struggled peacefully against Mugabe at the ballot box for years but were violently quashed.

Mnangagwa's swearing in is scheduled to start at about 10 am (0800 GMT) in the capital Harare.

Zimbabwe is due to hold elections next year.

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