Who is Emmerson Mnangagwa?

HARARE - Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, — who rose to become Zimbabwe’s president on November 24, is also the Zanu PF leader following former president Robert Mugabe’s fall through a soft coup last year.

Better known as “Ngwena (Crocodile)” — Mnangagwa was born in Zvishavane on September 15, 1942 and reportedly fronted the Team Lacoste faction of Zanu PF that was rooting for the former guerilla fighter taking over from Mugabe.

Mnangagwa did his “O” and “A” Levels through correspondence while in prison although after his release, he later completed his studies in law in Zambia where he was admitted to the Bar of the High Court of Zambia in 1976.

During the liberation struggle, Mnangagwa was a member of the “Crocodile Gang”, which at some point included William Ndangana, Mnangagwa, Matthew Malowa, Victor Mlambo, James Dhlamini and Master Tresha.

Besides smuggling arms into the country, one of the gang’s other tasks included recruiting supporters from Salisbury, Fort Victoria, Mberengwa and Macheke, smuggling them out through the border at Mutoko for political and military training in Tanzania. They travelled on foot between Salisbury and Mutoko.

During one of their operations, they killed a resident farmer and police reservist, Petrus Oberholtzer, at Nyanyadzi, Chimanimani District and sabotaged a locomotive train in the then Fort Victoria (Masvingo).

Ngwena accompanied Mugabe to the Lancaster House negotiations that led to the independence of Zimbabwe and led the first group of civilian leaders which included Didymus Mutasa and Eddison Zvobgo from Maputo, Mozambique to Zimbabwe in April 1980. 

Mnangagwa, was a long-time confidante and ally of Mugabe — having spent the better part of the liberation struggle as his personal assistant.

At independence in 1980, Mnangagwa was appointed into Mugabe’s Cabinet as minister of National Security.

Mnangagwa held several Cabinet positions under Mugabe, including at one point being demoted to the less influential post of minister of Rural Housing in 2005.

He, however, regained Mugabe’s favour after masterminding the 93-year-old’s retention of power in the March 2008 harmonised elections, negotiating a power-sharing agreement with the Movement for Democratic Change’s Morgan Tsvangirai on Mugabe’s behalf.

In that election, Tsvangirai had beaten Mugabe albeit without a decisive majority to enable him to form a government.

The result was a presidential run-off from which Tsvangirai withdrew, citing the killing of over 200 of his supporters.

In Mugabe’s next government, Mnangagwa was appointed Defence minister, the capacity in which he served until July 2013 when Zimbabwe held another general election.

Following the 2013 elections, Ngwena became Justice minister, a post he held concurrently with the vice presidency post following the sacking of Joice Mujuru — Mugabe’s deputy for 10 years — in December 2014.

At some point, people thought Mnangagwa had almost become Mugabe’s successor.

However, the rise of Mugabe’s wife — Grace — to the top women’s league post led to a meteoric rise in her political profile.

After leading the assault on Mujuru, Grace went all-out for Mnangagwa, attacking him left, right and centre at all political rallies she addressed.

In August last year, Mnangawa fell ill during a youth interface rally in Gwanda, Matabeleland South Province and had to be airlifted to South Africa where he underwent surgery. He has since said he had been poisoned by his enemies in the G40 faction of Zanu PF.

On November 6, Mugabe fired Mnangagwa from both party and government, leading to a series of dramatic events that culminated in the military stepping in to get at “criminals around Mugabe”.

Mnangagwa skipped the country when it became apparent that he was going to be arrested, staying in South Africa and only returning to assume the leadership of Zanu PF at an extra-ordinary session of the party’s central committee, which automatically led to his swearing-in as the country’s president — to complete Mugabe’s term — on
November 24, 2017.

In his inaugural address at the giant National Sports Stadium on November 24, Mnangagwa made a number of promises — the bulk of which he has not been able to fulfill — to an expectant but crisis-weary populace..

Mnangagwa’s Cabinet included some who were plucked from the military, notably his Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, Lands minister Perrance Shiri and Foreign Affairs minister Sibusiso Moyo.

Disgruntlement with his administration swelled on the back of this as elections drew closer. The July 30 harmonised elections, whose playing ground the main opposition MDC Alliance has always claimed to be uneven, were held under largely peaceful circumstances.

MDC Alliance supporters poured onto the streets of Harare protesting the delay in announcing results of the presidential poll which their candidate, the 40-year-old Nelson Chamisa, had claimed to have won.

However, in the results announced the following day, Mnangagwa polled 2 460 463, beating his main rival — Chamisa — who garnered 2 147 436. This translates to 50,8 percent for Mnangagwa and 44,3 percent of the vote for the MDC Alliance leader.

For Mnangagwa, who for long fought to get the top job — including several months had to endure a barrage of criticism and insults from Mugabe’s wife as the battle for State House intensified, this victory must have opened an opportunity for him to prove his worth.

Post a comment

Readers are kindly requested to refrain from using abusive, vulgar, racist, tribalistic, sexist, discriminatory and hurtful language when posting their comments on the Daily News website.
Those who transgress this civilised etiquette will be barred from contributing to our online discussions.
- Editor

Your email address will not be shared.