Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa


Written by: Meshack Masibo

Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zimbabwe’s president and leader of the ruling Zanu-PF party, won the country’s historic and hotly contested presidential election amidst claims by the opposition that the elections were not free and fair. Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced that Mnangagwa had received 2.46m votes, or 50.8% of the 4.8m votes cast. Nelson Chamisa, the candidate of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party (MDC), won 2.14m votes or 44.3%, the ZEC said. Mnangagwa needed to win by more than 50% to avoid a runoff vote. Mnangagwa,  was a close aide of Robert Mugabe, the 94-year-old autocrat who ruled for 37 years and was ousted by the army nine months ago , and was implicated in atrocities committed under his rule. Chamisa, 40, is a former lawyer and pastor.

Priscilla Chigumba, the chair of the ZEC, urged the country to move on with the hopeful spirit of election day and beyond the chaos experienced on Wednesday. Mnangagwa  said that he was “humbled” by the result adding that this was a new beginning for Zimbabwe encouraging citizens to join hands in peace, love and unity in order to build a new Zimbabwe for all. On Friday morning his main opposition contender Chamisa called the results fake and said the electoral commission should release proper and verified numbers. The MDC had rejected the results even before they had been announced in full. Minutes before the final result, the MDC’s chairman, Morgan Komichi, made an impromptu televised statement at the commission, saying the election was “fraudulent” and that the party would challenge the results in court.  Thereafter clashes occurred between security officers and opposition supporters that claimed the lives of 6 people.

So who really is Emmerson Mnangagwa? the president elect of the South African nation subject to any challenges to the election results.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa was a key figure in the Zimbabwean War of Liberation and became the Minister of National Security, with Robert Mugabe as the head of the ruling party ZANU-PF and the Prime Minister. In the next few decades, Emmerson served on many different positions in the Mugabe Government and proved a loyal ally to him. Born and brought up in Shabani, Zimbabwe, Emmerson received his military training in China and Egypt and formed a group of young people known as ‘Crocodile Gang’ that terrorized Rhodesia’s white-minority rule. After creating a chaos leading his group, he was captured in 1965 and was sentenced to death, but he managed to trick everyone by proving to be under-21, which compelled the judiciary system to cancel his death sentence. While in jail, he met Robert Mugabe for the first time, and thus started a political and personal friendship that lasted for decades, until November 2017 when Mugabe was ‘forced’ to resign. The entire nation rejoiced as military intervened and forced Mugabe to step down.

Emmerson Mnangagwa was born in Zvishavane, in central Zimbabwe on 15th September 1942 in a farmer family that was aggressively anti establishment. His father’s frequent resistance against the white oppressors had the family flee to the neighbouring country Zambia for life. After finishing his schooling from Mumbwa Boarding School, he enrolled into a Building course from Kafue Trade School, but he eyed Hodgson Technical College, the leading educational institution in the nation. He managed to crack the entrance exam and enrolled into a four year program in City and Guilds Industrial Building Course.

His interest in political activism sparked during his days in college with UNIP, a student union of which he was an elected executive. He was found guilty of burning one of the buildings during one of his violent political actions against the white-supremacy. As a result of this, he was expelled from the college.

He was uninterested in academics and was enraged about how the whites, who were in minority, ruled over the native Africans. As he was expelled from the college in the late 50s, he joined a startup and started his career, but the business fell apart soon, and he was jobless for a while. After that, he was soon contacted by the United National Independent Party to help them with organizing their activities and recruitment. He joined them as secretary.

He joined Zimbabwe African People’s Union in 1962 and received military training for some time in Tanzania, which was then followed by his enrolment into Egyptian Military Academy. Around that time, Zimbabwe African National Union was formed and Emmerson, with a few other comrades, joined hands with the newly formed party. This didn’t go well with the Egyptian authorities and Emmerson was detained. When Robert Mugabe came to know of it, he flew down to Egypt to secure their release.

Emmerson had started preparing for his law degree while in college through correspondence with the London University and finished it with a degree from University of Zambia in the late 70s. After practicing for a few years and working for a private law firm, he met Robert Mugabe once again during his involvement in the Mozambican War of Independence. There, he became close friends with him and served as his personal bodyguard, eventually accompanying him at the negotiations during the Lancaster House Agreement, which discussed the future and independence of the Republic of Zimbabwe.

Emmerson Mnangagwa became independent Zimbabwe’s first Minister of National Security in 1980 while Robert Mugabe became the Prime Minister. During Emmerson’s tenure, chaos ensued in the Gukurahundi Civil War as the Fifth Zimbabwean Brigade brutally murdered several people. Emmerson denied giving any such orders and said that it was the army that did it.

In 1988, after the political reforms, Mugabe became the president and Emmerson was given some new responsibilities within the ministry. He was handed over the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs. He was also named the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Finances for a short period of time. While serving in these positions, Emmerson introduced several new acts and amendments into the constitution. In 2000, Emmerson contested in election for a seat in parliament, but lost it. President Mugabe acted promptly and gave him a seat nevertheless in the parliament, as the speaker. This was followed by a brief tenure as the Minister of Rural Affairs in 2005 after losing one more election. Being made the head of Ministry of Rural Affairs was considered to be a major demotion, and his standing as a powerful politician went down.

In 2007, there was an attempt to force President Mugabe to resign from his position. It is believed that some higher military officers were involved in the attempt, backed by Emmerson. All the officers involved were charged with treason and punished accordingly and Emmerson’s name was cleared of all charges. He was reportedly the mastermind behind the 2008 Presidential campaign of Mugabe, which ensured another term for him. In February 2009, Emmerson was named the Minister of Defence and in the year 2013, following another Presidential victory, Mugabe further promoted him as the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs.

The pressure on Mugabe to name his successor was heightening and he named Emmerson the Vice President in 2014, confirming him as his heir. Soon after, the news started emerging that Mugabe is handing over most of the Presidential duties to Emmerson.

The trouble in the haven started brewing up in 2016, when Emmerson started having ideological clashes with Grace Mugabe, the First Lady of Zimbabwe.

She was then accused of poisoning Emmerson as he started getting ill by the day and this led to further political discomfort. It seemed like Grace wanted to be Robert Mugabe’s successor as the President and Emmerson was fired from the position of Vice President on 6th November 2017. Following this, fearing for his life in wake of frequent death threats, Emmerson fled to South Africa.

On 19th November 2017, it was proclaimed that Emmerson had become the leader of ruling party ZANU-PF, and claimed the Presidential seat. At first, Mugabe refused to step down, but on 21st November 2017, under immense pressure, Mugabe resigned, clearing way for Emmerson Mnangagwa to become the President of Republic of Zimbabwe.

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