Emmerson Mnangagwa – Zimbabwe’s ‘crocodile’ who wants another bite

When Robert Mugabe was ousted as Zimbabwe’s president in 2017, his replacement, Emmerson Mnangagwa promised a new start for his country’s people.

But as President Mnangagwa seeks re-election at the polls later this month, Zimbabweans are grappling with the same problems – high inflation, poverty and a climate of fear.

The Zanu-PF leader, who is rarely seen without a scarf in the colours of Zimbabwe’s flag around his neck, brushes such criticism aside, saying the nation will be “lost” if it fails to back him – his supporters pointing to a mining boom and other foreign investments during his time in office.

Known as “the crocodile” because of his political cunning, he came to pow er after a military takeover and mass demonstrations forced Mugabe, long-time leader and Mnangagwa’s former mentor, to resign.

The military revolt was sparked by Mugabe sacking Mnangagwa as his vice-president.

Mnangagwa, who lived up to his nickname and snapped back, may have unseated Zimbabwe’s only ruler, but he is also associated with some of the worst atrocities committed under the ruling party since independence in 1980.

Some of his former comrades in the liberation struggle used to describe him as a “very cruel man”.

But his children see him as a principled, if unemotional, man. His daughter, Farai Mlotshwa – a property developer and the eldest of his nine children by two wives – once described him as a “softie”.

And as he sought to woo foreign investors and dispel his ruthless reputation in 2018, he told the BBC: “I am as soft as wool. I am a very soft person in life.”

His supporters still bring out a cuddly crocodile toy during Zanu-PF ralliesThe exact year of Mnangagwa’s birth is not known – but he is thought to be 80.

Born in the central region of Zvishavane, he is a Karanga – the largest clan of Zimbabwe’s majority Shona community.

Long before he came to power, he was seen as “the architect of the commercial activities of Zanu-PF”, a 2001 United Nations report said.

Despite his money-raising role, Mnangagwa, a lawyer who grew up in Zambia, has a fearsome reputation that was cemented after independence during the civil war that broke out in the 1980s between Mugabe’s Zanu party and the Zapu party of Joshua Nkomo.

As national security minister, he was in charge of the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO), which worked hand in glove with the army to suppress Zapu.

Thousands of civilians – mainly ethnic Ndebeles, seen as Zapu supporters – were killed in a campaign known as Gukurahundi, before the two parties merged to form Zanu-PF.

Mnangagwa has denied any role in the massacres. As president he has tried to broach reconciliation. Some have felt his comments glib given the deep wounds in Matabeleland, but an initiative to allow exhumations and reburials has been agreed.

Elsewhere, he still enjoys the support of many of the war veterans who led the campaign of violence against white farmers and the opposition from 2000.

They remember him as one of the men who, following his military training in China and Egypt, directed the fight for independence in the 1960s and 1970s.

Source: BBC

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