President Crocodile

Ratan Varghese - 2B Computer
Posted on: November 25, 2017

On Tuesday November 21, Robert Mugabe stepped down as President of Zimbabwe after a military coup placed him under house arrest and tens of thousands of civilians protested against him. Of his 93 years of life, dozens were spent as authoritarian dictator of Zimbabwe after the overthrow of the white-minority Rhodesian government. He stepped down ostensibly to ensure a peaceful, smooth power transition. That transition is progressing fast: on Friday November 25 the new President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, gave his inauguration speech.

During the Rhodesian era, a teenage Mnangagwa received military training in China and Egypt and fought the white-minority government. Mnangagwa and his gang attempted to blow up a train and was arrested. He was arrested in 1965 and sentenced to death by hanging, but since he was a juvenile his sentence was commuted to ten years in prison. He met Mugabe in prison, beginning a political career that would lead to him becoming Mugabe’s right hand man and Security Minister of Zimbabwe. During his long career in the ruling elite, Mnangagwa was nicknamed “the Crocodile” for his ruthlessness and cunning. Keeping with the theme, his gang was nicknamed “Team Lacoste”.

In 1983, Emmerson Mnangagwa’s forces were sent to the Matabeleland provinces in Zimbabwe, where there was widespread support for Mugabe’s rival Joshua Nkomo. The North-Korean trained 5th brigade killed 20,000 civilians. This incident is well-documented but nobody has been held accountable for it: Mnangagwa himself has blamed the military and absolved himself of any responsibility for the massacre.

Emmerson Mnangagwa’s role as the link between the ruling party, the intelligence agency and the military continued long after that. He had been accused of masterminding attacks on opposition leaders around the 2008 election and exploiting mineral resources, such as diamonds, from the Congo for massive profit.

Mugabe and his loyalists recently started to see Mnangagwa as a threat, a right-hand man whose ambition was getting the better of him. He was clearly the military’s favored choice for succeeding Robert Mugabe. Some of the concern was a bit petty though: Mnangagwa was even criticized for drinking coffee from a mug which read “I’m the Boss.”

Last month, Emmerson Mnangagwa was dismissed from his role of vice-president by Mugabe. This was one of the key factors behind the military coup. A related issue was Mugabe’s attempt to set up his wife as successor. Emmerson Mnangagwa was sacked for ‘disloyalty’ and fled the country, only to return a day after Mugabe stepped down.

During his inauguration speech in Zimbabwe’s packed National Sports Stadium, now-President Mnangagwa stressed his admiration for Mugabe, calling his predecessor “a father, mentor, comrade-in-arms and my leader”. Notably, the mentor did not attend his student’s maiden speech, apparently because of his age. Zimbabwean media claims that Mnangagwa granted the Mugabe family “maximum security and welfare.”

Mnangagwa said that Zimbabwe was “ready and willing for a steady re-engagement with all the nations of the world”, and that “acts of corruption must stop”. He also promised that after decades of military rule, elections would be held in 2018., and mentioned some of the other key issues facing Zimbabwe.

Mugabe’s regime attempted to take land from large, white-owned commercial farms, ostensibly to give the land to poor black citizens. However the redistribution process heavily favored the ruling elite, and there was massive levels of violence during the whole affair. Mnangagwa claimed that white farmers would not be getting any seized land back, but would be compensated. He called himself a “president of all citizens, regardless of colour, creed, religion, tribe, totem or political affiliation.”

The Zimbabwean government also caused massive inflation in the 1990s and early 2000s by printing money. Zimbabwe ended up abandoning its own currency as this debacle progressed. The country has not recovered from the resulting economic crisis: to this day the unemployment rate is estimated to be as high as 90%. Mnangagwa claimed that to reduce unemployment and transform the country, more foreign investment was required.

Naturally, Opposition MDC party leader Morgan Tsvangirai is skeptical of Mnangagwa’s claims. In an interview with the BBC, he called the current regime change a “power retention agenda” and stressed that neither culture nor practice can stand for perpetuating Mugabe as Mnangagwa seemed to be doing. Tsvangirai pointed out that attracting international investment takes more than words: Mnangagwa would have to build a truly inclusive society, an “irreversible democratic country” with respect for rule of law. Moving the political culture away from violence and corruption is “not an easy walk in the park.”