In excitement and expectation they came in their tens of thousands.
Bounding up the steep steps to the National Stadium, they filled its 60,000 capacity with thousands more outside, unable to get in.
A substantial number have never known anything but life under Robert Mugabe, but now he has gone.
His successor, the third President of Zimbabwe, Emmerson Mnangagwa, arrived to near hysteria.
He took his place at the podium supported by foreign leaders and political allies. To his side, ranks of senior army officers - the men who put him in power.
In all but name these were the closing moments of a successful coup and the generals have made sure their man has the top job.
The swearing in of the new president was a formality, but a vitally important ceremonial and constitutional one.
The final end of the Mugabe era perhaps, but will the new era seem much different?
Full of pomp and circumstance with air force flyovers and 21-gun salutes, the ceremony paused while the new president finally addressed the crowds, the nation and the world.
He then promised to reboot the economy, settle contentious land and farm issues, end corruption and vowed to herald in free and fair elections and a new era of proper government.
As the heads of the security services pledged their allegiance to their new commander-in-chief, the crowd saved its anger for the head of the despised police forces.
Booing drowned out the oath. This was astonishing, just days ago totally unthinkable.
Few will forget that the new president was at the centre of the brutality meted out by the security forces for years. For now they seem prepared to move on.
Whether or not Mr Mnangagwa really is a change for the good we cannot know. But for the crowds this was a day of unparalleled happiness and maybe relief.
Crowds of youngsters, men and women, crowded around us saying this was a new beginning.
"We want change, this is a fantastic day," a young woman draped in the national flag told me. "I want a job."
Also on the podium was Morgan Tsvangirai, head of the Movement for Democratic Change and Mugabe's questioner-in-chief. He was granted a late invitation.
Mr Tsvangirai wants to run against the new president in the elections he has promised will take place next year, in accordance with the constitution.
Mr Tsvangari told me he is hopeful of change but is sceptical.
He said: "So far (Mr Mnangagwa) hasn't reached out to us. It isn't a good start but let's see.
"He carries a lot of baggage from the past. The question he has to ask himself is 'to what extent am I going to carry this baggage in the new era or am I going to define my own legacy and not to carry on Mugabe's legacy?'"
This was a truly momentous day for Zimbabwe.
As he bowed to allow the presidential sash to be placed over his soldiers, Mr Mnangagwa turned a page in this country's history.
Zimbabwe wants a happy ending, but the question hanging in the air is whether there will be one.
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