NEW vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa was sworn into office on Friday, cementing his status as the leading candidate to succeed his 90-year-old boss Robert Mugabe, the country’s sole ruler since independence from Britain in 1980.
Mnangagwa, nicknamed “The Crocodile”, benefited from the fall of Joice Mujuru, Mugabe’s deputy of 10 years, who was fired earlier this week following accusations of a plot to unseat the ageing leader.
At a ceremony held at Mugabe’s State House offices, Mnangagwa and another vice president, Phelekezela Mphoko, took their oaths of loyalty, alongside several new cabinet ministers.
Mnangagwa will retain his role as minister of justice, which enables him to push through government laws in parliament.
The 68-year-old is one of Mugabe’s most trusted lieutenants, having served at his side through five decades of prison, guerrilla war and then post-liberation government.
Along the way, he earned the monicker ‘Ngwena’, Shona for ‘Crocodile’, an animal famed in Zimbabwean lore for its stealth and ruthlessness.
Mugabe is Africa’s oldest head of state, but despite his advanced age, he has shown no sign of looking to stand aside. Earlier this month, he was re-elected unopposed once more as leader of his ZANU-PF party, putting him on track to contest the 2018 presidential elections, when he will be 94.
In 2004, Mr Mnangagwa was humiliatingly outwitted by his main rival Solomon Mujuru when the army general’s then 49-year-old wife Joice was named vice president.
Mr Mnangagwa was later demoted – to the inglorious ministerial portfolio of rural housing and social amenities. However, he fought his way back and his relentless dismantling of Mrs Mujuru’s reputation this year has been payback time.
What it means now is if President Mugabe decides to step down or if for any reason he fails to complete his term, Mnangagwa becomes Zimbabwe’s interim president until next elections are held. Before Grace Mugabe was nominated by Oppah Muchinguri to become the new women’s league boss, many Zimbabweans wondered how Mnangagwa was going to be the next president when his position (secretary of legal affairs in Zanu PF) was 6 places down the most senior position. Little did Zimbabweans know that it only needed Grace Mugabe’s campaign to get Mujuru resign or else risk being fired before Mnangagwa takes over.
Now Zanu PF and China can safely proceed with their ‘borrowing and lending’ economic plan which reportedly needed Mnangagwa to be President Mugabe’s number 2 before the deal could materialize.