A Strongman Nicknamed ‘Crocodile’ Is Poised to Replace Mugabe


The firing was broadly seen as paving the way in which for Mr. Mugabe’s spouse, Grace, to succeed her husband as president, however Mrs. Mugabe — broadly disliked for her unstable mood and costly tastes — has virtually no help among the many army officers and intelligence operatives who preserve a decent grip on the nation.

By the time of Mr. Mnangagwa’s dismissal, the enmity between the vp and Mrs. Mugabe had spilled into the open. He accused her of making an attempt to kill him with poisoned ice cream from her dairy farm, an allegation she denied.

As the military negotiates with Mr. Mugabe over a transition through which he would doubtlessly be allowed to enter exile, the temper within the nation is subdued. Most Zimbabweans have rejoiced on the downfall of the Mugabes, whose political stranglehold all however ruined the economic system and alienated a lot of the inhabitants.

But many see the takeover as a symptom of the infighting and generational divide roiling the governing social gathering, ZANU-PF, relatively than a real probability at multiparty democracy and financial reform.

There can be concern about his affiliation with a number of the Mugabe period’s low factors: Mr. Mnangagwa was accused of orchestrating a crackdown within the 1980s through which hundreds of members of the Ndebele ethnic group have been killed. He was an avid supporter of Mr. Mugabe’s most controversial financial coverage — the expropriation and redistribution of land that had been managed by white farmers for the reason that period of colonialism. He was additionally accused of being behind lethal violence in 2008 a bid to rig polls in favor of Mr. Mugabe, a declare he denies.

“There is a healthy dose of trepidation because they know that the man who might take over is not Mr. Democracy,” mentioned Wilf Mbanga, editor of The Zimbabwean, a web-based newspaper. “His track record is not impressive. He’s got a messy past. Is he going to clean his act? We don’t know.”

Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa was born on Sept. 15, 1942, in Zvishavane, a mining city, the kid of politically energetic farmers.

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His father was steeped within the resistance motion towards white settlers, and his political activism compelled the household to flee to present-day Zambia. “He was born into politics,” mentioned Victor Matemadanda, secretary common of the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Association, who served below Mr. Mnangagwa within the army.

Expelled from faculty for his activism, Mr. Mnangagwa joined the motion to liberate what was then Rhodesia, a British colony, from white rule. He acquired army coaching in China and Egypt.


Graffiti in Harare on Wednesday studying, “We want garwe,” which suggests crocodile, a reference to Mr. Mnangagwa’s nickname.

Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

At 16, he was a part of a plot to explode a railway line. His accomplices have been summarily executed, however a priest appealed to the British to spare him on account of his age. He was as an alternative given a 10-year sentence in jail, the place he devoted himself to check. After his launch, earned a legislation diploma from the University of Zambia.

He quickly left the authorized apply to affix the liberation motion in Mozambique, then a Portuguese colony, the place he met Mr. Mugabe and have become his private badistant and bodyguard. He was a commander throughout the conflict for independence within the 1970s. He was at Mr. Mugabe’s facet when the white-led authorities entered into political negotiations that resulted within the delivery of Zimbabwe in 1980.

Mr. Mugabe rewarded Mr. Mnangagwa’s loyalty by elevating him to completely different posts. At numerous factors of his profession, he was minister of justice and protection, minister for rural housing and speaker of Parliament, amongst different positions.

While in command of the Central Intelligence Organization within the mid-1980s, Mr. Mnangagwa was accused of orchestrating a brutal marketing campaign referred to as Gukurahundi — “the early rain that washes away the chaff before the spring rain” — through which hundreds of political opponents and civilians from the Ndebele ethnic group have been killed, a declare that he has denied. He has been a central node within the net of relationships that join the military, the intelligence companies and the governing social gathering.

Like his nemesis Mrs. Mugabe, Mr. Mnangagwa is deeply unpopular in elements of the nation. He misplaced his parliamentary seat at the least twice, as soon as after he was accused of firebombing his opponent’s home, in keeping with Mr. Mbanga, editor of The Zimbabwean.

In current years, Mr. Mnangagwa has tried to reform his checkered previous, styling himself an advocate of agricultural reform and a proponent of efforts to revive Zimbabwe’s relationship with outdoors traders and worldwide establishments, together with the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

In 2014, when Mr. Mugabe eliminated Joice Mujuru, then vp, in circumstances just like Mr. Mnangagwa’s later dismissal, he defended the president’s resolution. Mrs. Mujuru went on to type an opposition social gathering.

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“It is not for nothing that he is known as Ngwenya,” mentioned Mr. Fabricius, the journalist, utilizing the Xhosa phrase for crocodile.

“He didn’t ride off into the sunset to launch yet another opposition party, or just retire from politics to make even more money, as many had expected,” Mr. Fabricius mentioned.

The relationship with the Mugabes started to bitter this 12 months, after Mrs. Mugabe started to make an more and more open bid to succeed her husband. She accused him of plotting a coup, and he accused her of making an attempt to kill him.

Although the newest army motion was set off by his firing, reviews are rising that it had been deliberate a number of weeks earlier, with senior army officers consulting South African and Chinese officers.

Mr. Mnangagwa’s allies acquired badurances by South Africa that it will not intervene so long as the motion didn’t spill over past its borders, in keeping with Africa Confidential, a web-based journal.

The origins of the nickname Crocodile usually are not clear. Some say it was Mr. Mnangagwa’s nom de guerre throughout the liberation wrestle; others say it’s derived from his household title.

In a cellphone interview, Mr. Matemadanda, the army veteran, elaborated on the nickname.

“A crocodile patiently waits for his target, pretending to be a rock,” he mentioned. “At times you think he doesn’t react, or doesn’t have any solution to what is happening. He doesn’t show irritation until the optimal moment and then he strikes. And when he does, he doesn’t miss his target.”

“Everyone who gets into politics knows that the moment you join you don’t join to be the last name, you join with the hope that you’ll come out first,” he added. Regarding the newest developments, after a protracted profession, Mr. Mnangagwa “has been patient for a very long time.”

As his commander, Mr. Matemadanda mentioned Mr. Mnangagwa was “one of the most polite, tolerant, very down-to-earth persons that I have ever met.”

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