HARARE: Zimbabwe’s incoming president Emmerson Mnangagwa was preparing Thursday to take power after the shock resignation of Robert Mugabe brought 37 years of authoritarian rule to an end.

Mnangagwa, who has close ties to the army and the security establishment, returned to the country to take the reins and told adoring crowds in Harare that they were witnessing "unfolding full democracy".

He will be sworn in as president at an inauguration ceremony on Friday, officials said.

The speech was his first since Mugabe fired him as vice president on November 6 over a succession tussle with the former first lady, a move that prompted the military’s intervention to force Mugabe from power, leading to his resignation on Tuesday.

"Today we are witnessing the beginning of a new and unfolding full democracy in our country," he said in front of hundreds of supporters, some wearing shirts emblazoned with images of the 75-year-old leader.

"We want to grow our economy, we want jobs... all patriotic Zimbabweans (should) come together, work together," he said.

He was surrounded by a large security detail and arrived at the headquarters of the ruling ZANU-PF party in a presidential-style motorcade.

Two young men held a stuffed crocodile above their heads, a reference to Mnangagwas’s nickname, earned for his reputation for stealth and ruthlessness.