Emmerson Mnangagwa, has been elected as the new leader of Zimbabwe’s ruling political party and is now poised to take over as the country’s president.
On Tuesday, 93-year-old Robert Mugabe resigned as Zimbabwean President after ruling the country for 37 years. The resignation came after days of negotiations with the Army, who had considerably weakened the President by taking control of the country.
Mnangagwa, who was sacked as the country’s Vice President by Mugabe, engineered a remarkable comeback.
Mnangagwa served for decades as Mugabe’s enforcer, a role that gave him a reputation for being astute, ruthless and effective at manipulating the levers of power. Among the population, he is more feared than popular, but he has strategically fostered a loyal support base within the military and security forces.
A leading government figure since Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, he became vice president in 2014 and is so widely known as the “Crocodile” that his supporters are called Team Lacoste for the brand’s crocodile logo.
Mugabe unwittingly set in motion the events that led to his own downfall, firing his vice president on November 6. Mnangagwa fled the country to avoid arrest while issuing a ringing statement saying he would return to lead Zimbabwe.
“Let us bury our differences and rebuild a new and prosperous Zimbabwe, a country that is tolerant to divergent views, a country that respects opinions of others, a country that does note isolate itself from the rest of the world because of one stubborn individual who believes he is entitled to rule this country until death,” he had said in the November 8 statement.
He has not been seen in public. But shortly after Mugabe’s resignation was announced, ruling party chief whip Lovemore Matuke told The Associated Press that he would take over as the country’s leader within 48 hours, saying Mnangagwa “is not far from here.”
When Mugabe refused to resign, a massive demonstration Saturday brought thousands of people into the streets of the capital, Harare. Thousands of posters praising Mnangagwa and the military were seen. It was during the same time, Mnangagwa’s allies in the ruling ZANU- PF party lobbied for the removal of Mugabe as the party leader.
At a Central Committee meeting on Sunday, Mnangagwa was voted in as the new leader of the party, which had been led by Mugabe since 1977.
(With inputs from agencies)