POLITICS

Emmerson Mnangagwa -- The Man Behind A Renewed Hope For Zimbabwe

Mugabe's former right-hand man is to be sworn in today as he set to become Zimbabwe's next president.

24/11/2017 09:57 SAST | Updated 24/11/2017 10:12 SAST
Mike Hutchings/ Reuters
Zimbabwe's president-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa, who is due to be sworn in to replace Robert Mugabe as head of state, addresses supporters in Harare, Zimbabwe, November 22, 2017.

Mugabe's former right-hand man is to be sworn in today as Zimbabwe's first new president in nearly four decades.

The 75-year-old liberation war veteran and member of the governing Zanu-PF party has had a rather interesting and varied political career.

Not two weeks ago, former president Robert Mugabe dismissed Mnangagwa as the country's vice-president on various charges and went into exile. Soon after his expulsion from Zanu-PF, Mnangagwa was reinstated by the Central Committee on the November 19 as party leader and president-in-waiting. Mugabe has since resigned.

The president-elect is married to his third wife, Auxilia Mnangagwa, who is currently member of parliament for Chirumhanzu Zibagwe Midlands Province. Together they have three children and he has two other children. The couple has been quite supportive of each other's endeavours.

Felix Dlangamandla/ Foto24/ Getty Images
President Emmerson Mnangagwa with his wife Auxillia addressing the people of Zimbabwe at the Zanu-Pf headquarters on November 22, 2017 in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Mnangagwa joined politics at an early age and was recruited into the Zimbabwe African People's Union (Zapu) by Willie Musarurwa in 1962.

He holds a bachelor of law from the University of Zambia (1974), and also studied law at the University of London. He also attended the Beijing School of Ideology run by the Chinese Communist Party.

His educational background and his political career showcase a man who has had numerous successes in the positions he has held. He has served on the following portfolios in government: minister of state security, minister of justice and as acting minister of finance. Mnangagwa's recent positions before he was appointed vice-president are that of minister of rural housing from 2005 to 2009 and minister of defence during the coalition government between the three major political parties in Zimbabwe -- the short-lived Government of National Unity.

Mnangagwa was nicknamed "Ngwena" (the crocodile) after the "crocodile gang", which was a five-member group formed in 1964 in Zambia under the leadership of William Ndangana. It staged acts of sabotage under the banner of the Zimbabwe African National Union (Zanu) party.

Explaining the meaning behind the nickname, Mnangagwa reportedly said the following:

You know the trait of a crocodile, don't you? It never hunts outside water. It always goes into the water to catch its prey. It never goes in the villages or in the bush looking for food. It strikes at the appropriate time. So a good guerrilla leader strikes at the appropriate time. That's the import of the nicknames we give each other.

The other members of this unit were executed, but Mnangagwa was spared because he was the youngest of the group at age 21. He was sent to jail where he shared a cell with Robert Mugabe and this is where their relationship began.

Philimon Bulawayo / Reuters
Zimbabwe's Former President Robert Mugabe (R) shares a joke with president-elect Emmerson Mnangagwa during Mugabe's birthday celebrations at Great Zimbabwe in Masvingo, February 27, 2016.

After nearly 40 years of serving under Mugabe, Mnangagwa is showing to be his own person and many (in Zimbabwe and elsewhere) see him as a better investment than Mugabe -- someone who will be able to bring Zimbabwe's economy back into the swing of things. After all, he was the head of the faction trying to restore the country's economy.

It has been said that there is more than one Emmerson Mnangagwa. We will only be able to see after the election if the crocodile emerges, or if it will be the strategist in him that will bring reform to Zimbabwe.

Either way, this is an interesting time for Zimbabwe and the region.