Emmerson Mnangagwa sworn in as new president of Zimbabwe, succeeding Robert Mugabe

Emmerson Mnangagwa Credit: ZBC

Zimbabwe's incoming leader Emmerson Mnangagwa has been sworn in as president, beginning a new era for the long-troubled nation.

Mr Mnangagwa will lead after the resignation of 93-year-old Robert Mugabe, who succumbed to pressure to quit from the military, the ruling party and massive demonstrations.

As he arrived at the national stadium in Harare, Mr Mnangagwa raised his fist and the 60,000-strong crowd jumped to its feet and erupted with shouts and singing.

The 75-year-old promised to devote himself to the well-being of the people and said he was "deeply humbled" to take power.

"We must work together - you, me, all of us who make up this nation," he said.

He urged the millions of Zimbabweans who have left the country to return to help rebuild the economy.

He drew a tepid applause from the crowd when he paid tribute to his predecessor, saying Zimbabweans "should never remain hostages of our past".

"I thus humble appeal to all of us that we let bygones be bygones," he said.

Mr Mnangagwa also vowed that "democratic" elections will be held next year as scheduled.

He also promised to reimburse the farmers whose land was seized under Mr Mugabe's reign, leading to international condemnation.

A handful of regional heads of state are attended the inauguration, including the leaders of Botswana, Mozambique and Zambia.

The president of regional powerhouse South Africa was not there because President Jacob Zuma is hosting Angola's new leader for talks.

Mr Mnangagwa is only the second leader of the African nation in 37 years; the former vice president returned from exile on Wednesday after the military staged a coup to force Mr Mugabe out.

His elevation comes amid news that ZANU-PF, the ruling party, has promised not to prosecute their former leader.

"Prosecuting him was never part of the plan," Lovemore Matuke , the party’s chief whip, said.

"He is safe, his family is safe and his status as a hero of his country is assured. All we were saying is resign or face impeachment."

Mr Mugabe finally quit as lawmakers started impeachment proceedings against the 93-year-old.

Thousands packed into Zimbabawe's national stadium in Harare to see the inauguration. Credit: AP

Reports suggest he will be allowed to remain in the capital Harare with his wife, Grace, whose own leadership ambitions sparked the current crisis.

Mr Mugabe did not attend Friday's swearing-in, and ruling party officials have said he will remain in Zimbabwe with their promise that he is "safe" and his legacy as a "hero" will stand after his fight for an independent Zimbabwe.

Mr Mnangagwa, 75, promised on Wednesday to build "a new, unfolding democracy" and stabilise an economy that has shrunk by half since the turn of the century.

Emmerson Mnangagwa (left) and Robert Mugabe at a gathering in early November Credit: PA

The former justice and defence minister who served as Mr Mugabe's enforcer, remains on a US sanctions list over allegations of violence towards political opposition.

He fled Zimbabwe after being fired on November 6 and remained in hiding until the coup.