Mnangagwa could replace Mugabe

Meet Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Man Who Could Replace Robert Mugabe as Zimbabwe's Next President

Newsweek By Conor Gaffey

11 November 2017

Emmerson Mnangagwa is congratulated after being appointed as Zimbabwe's vice-president by President Robert Mugabe (unseen), in Harare, Zimbabwe, on December 10, 2014. JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty

Robert Mugabe, Africa’s oldest president and one of the world’s longest-serving leaders, has said that he will only give up power “when God says ‘Come.’”

But it looks as though a military intervention, rather than a divine one, may be about to bring Mugabe’s 37-year stint in power to an end. And one man looks set to profit from the dramatic turn of events in Zimbabwe: Mugabe’s former deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

The Zimbabwe military took control of the state broadcaster, Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, early Wednesday and has reportedly detained prominent members of the ruling ZANU-PF party, though it insisted that the 93-year-old president and his family were “safe and sound.”

While much of the information coming out of the capital Harare remains unclear, there are unconfirmed reports that Mnangagwa may be behind the military takeover, which the army is insisting is not a coup.

Doug Coltart, a human rights lawyer based in Zimbabwe, says that the city is largely calm but that he is concerned by what could turn out to be an “unconstitutional transition of power.”

“Our biggest concern at this stage is there’s absolutely no guarantee that this type of transition will result in democratic consolidation on the other side of it. I think that there is a very real possibility that this could be just a consolidation of more of the same with a different face,” Coltart, 26, tells Newsweek.

Until last week, Mnangagwa, who is in his 70s but whose exact age is a matter of dispute, was one of Mugabe’s closest allies. He is a veteran of the country’s independence war—which ended in 1980 with Mugabe coming to power—and has since then held a range of top political and military positions. Mnangagwa’s stature as a war veteran and his history in the military means he has developed a strong support base among the country’s armed forces.

Mnangagwa—who is known as the Crocodile in Zimbabwe—became Mugabe’s deputy in 2014 following the purge of Joice Mujuru, who Mugabe and his wife Grace accused of plotting to kill the president.

Read more: Is this the beginning of the end for President Robert Mugabe?