Zimbabwe’s NEW President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, is a man of contradictions, his return from South Africa amidst euphoric celebrations has raised questions amongst many, questioning if he will be another Robert Mugabe, after all, he spent most of his adult life with Mugabe, 54 years in total. “Never should the nation be held at ransom by one person ever again, whose desire is to die in office whatever the cost of the nation,” Mnangagwa declared but this is the same man many Zimbabweans accused of “stealing the 2008 poll” helping Mugabe remain in power after a spectacular loss to former trade unionist, Morgan Tsvangirai, who lead official opposition, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Many saw Mnangagwa as the hand behind the wave of deadly violence and intimidation that forced the opposition to pull out of a run-off vote which Mugabe risked losing.
‘Nicknamed “The Crocodile” for his political acumen, Mnangagwa loyalty to Mugabe long preceded his appointment as vice president in 2014. A position he was fired from a fortnight ago. The two have been comrades for more than five decades, Mnangagwa was appointed by Mugabe as the country’s first minister of national security in 1980.
A leading guerrilla fighter during Zimbabwe’s War of Liberation in the 1970s, Mnangagwa’s powerful hand in government following independence saw him rise to top spymaster of the country’s Central Intelligence Organization. In the 1980s, he oversaw the Gukurahundi massacres, a civil conflict during which thousands of Zimbabweans from the ethnic Ndebele group were killed. Still feared by many and largely believed to be responsible, he has denied any responsibility.
Speaking to media this week, Dewa Mavhinga, southern African director of Human Rights Watch, cautioned against extreme excitement as the changes were cosmetic for now. He said: “This is a change of a leader within the same authoritarian system of ZANU-PF backed by the military.”
Zimbabwe National People’s Party spokesperson Methuseli Moyo said former Vice President Mnangagwa’s presidency is clearly a product of a coup and he has a task to balance issues. He said: “The Mnangagwa presidency is purely a product of a coup. The Crocodile has a huge task to balance issues. The danger I foresee is that he could be a hostage president if he fails to put the soldiers back to their place: in the barracks. For greater of his last years, Mugabe himself was a hostage of the military.”
Moyo further said: “The military has kept Mugabe in power since year 2 000 after threatening not to salute Morgan Tsvangirai. It got more pronounced in 2008 when the military ran a violent campaign in favour of Mugabe. The military got rid of Mugabe once he thought they were too much and told them – publicly – to go back to the barracks. Will Mnangagwa be able to push them back to the barracks? Soon, we will have answers.”