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Zimbabwe: Who is Emmerson Mnangagwa?

Photo credit: @edmnangagwa, Twitter

Emmerson Mnangagwa is the new president of Zimbabwe's ruling party, Zanu-PF, after the party ousted Robert Mugabe as its leader.

Mnangagwa, 71, was elected as vice-president in December 2014 and it was widely believed he would be the next president of Zimbabwe. On November 6, he was fired by Mugabe after it was alleged that he was plotting against the government. He then fled the country for South Africa.

WikiLeaks has published that in 2011, Mark Schroeder, a South African private security contractor, predicted that Mnangagwa would be Mugabe's most likely successor. He noted that Zanu-PF would want to replace Mugabe before he died. Schroeder also names former Rhodesian Army Colonel Lionel Dyck as his business partner. Dyck secured a lucrative deal with the Zimbabwean government through a mine clearance company called Minetech.

"... Minetech, which today is owned by Exploration Logistics whose chairman is Alastair Morrison, thus cementing ties between big business in Zimbabwe, British Intelligence and organised crime. The core value that the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) rendered the government of Britain, Smith and Zimbabwe ... was shadowy business deals, sanctions busting and gun-running.

"This created a world-class intelligence outfit with the sole aim of doing illegal deals and today Mnangagwa is the minister of defence, the de facto chief of the CIO and the only contender to run for president and he has made no secret of his ambitions."

The only real competition Mnangagwa had was General Solomon Mujuru, the former chief of the Zimbabwean army, who was widely feared. Mujuru died in a fire in the early hours of the night of 15 August 2011, at the homestead of Alamein Farm, in circumstances that many commentators suggest were suspicious. Mujuru's wife, Joice Mujuru, filled the position of vice-president to Mugabe for a decade. In 2014 she was also dismissed after allegations that she was plotting against Mugabe.

"Whether we like it or not Emmerson Mnangagwa has much more acumen, presence and money to be more effective than [opposition leader of the Movement for Democratic Change] Morgan Tsvangirai and he also has much larger support from the British Intelligence community that has close ties with big business interests," says Schroeder.

Early military and political life

Mnangagwa was born in the mining town, Zvishavane, in central Zimbabwe. His family moved to Zambia due to racial tensions in Zimbabwe. He attended Kafue Trade School and later Hodgson Technical College in Zambia. In 1960, he was expelled from the college for burning property while a political activist. He was also elected as an executive member of the United National Independence Party (UNIP).

In 1960-61 he helped UNIP organise its Chililabombwe (Bancroft) branch. He then returned to Lusaka where he became the secretary of the UNIP Youth League.

In 1962 he was recruited by the Zimbabwe African People's Union (Zapu). (Zapu merged with the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front [Zanu-PF] in 1982.) That same year he left for Tanganyika (now Tanzania) to attend a military training camp. Thereafter, in 1963, he was sent to Dar es Salaam and the Egyptian military academy. Once there, Mnangagwa and some of his fellow Zapu trainees defected to Zanu. They were expelled by the academy and arrested, after which Mugabe arranged for their release. Mnangagwa and five trainees then went to the Frelimo camp at Bagamoyo in Mozambique and he was sent to China with Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (Zanla) members. For the first two months they attended the School of Marxism at Peking University in Beijing. During the following three months combat training was conducted in Nanking. Mnangagwa also attended a school for military engineering.

In 1964 Mnangagwa and his comrades returned to Tanganyika and formed the "Crocodile Group". The group smuggled weapons and recruited members for political and guerrilla training. The group was instructed to perform certain tasks to draw media attention and stamp Zanu's presence on the country.

For his involvement in Zanu activities Mnangagwa was sentenced to 10 years in jail, after pleading guilty to blowing up a locomotive.

He started his tertiary education while still in Khami Prison in Zimbabwe where he wrote his intermediate exams. He completed his final exam at the University of London in 1972.

After his sentence he returned to Zambia and practised law under the mentorship of Enoch Dumbutshena, who would become Zimbabwe's first black judge. During the same period he also served as secretary for Zanu's Zambian branch.

Mnangagwa completed his law degree at the University of Zambia and in 1975 he completed his postgraduate LLB degree and another postgraduate programme in advocacy at the same university.

Shortly thereafter he left to fight in the Mozambican War of Independence. There he met Mugabe and acted as his bodyguard and assistant.

In 1980 in the Gukurahundi civil conflict Mnangagwa was, among other offices he held, the minister of state security. The conflict was rife with massacres, leading to the killing of between 20,000 (most used figure) and 100,000 civilians (the actual figure estimated by some experts), who were mainly ethnic Ndebeles, in Matabeleland. He blamed the army while many believe Mnangagwa was, in fact, largely responsible for the atrocities.

Under Mugabe's rule, Mnangagwa served in various ministerial positions from the 1980s to 2017:

1970s: Helped direct Zimbabwe's war of independence

1980s: Zimbabwe's spymaster during the 1980s civil conflict

1980-1988: First Minister of National Security

1980: Chairman of the Joint High Command

1989-2000: Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Leader of the House

1995-1996: Acting Minister of Finance, Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs

2000-2004: Zanu-PF's Secretary of Administration

2000-2005: Speaker of the House of Assembly

2004: Zanu-PF's Secretary for Legal Affairs

2005-2009: Minister of Rural Housing and Social Amenities

15 June 2007: Coup d'état attempt. The alleged leaders of the coup included retired army captain Albert Matapo, spokesman for the Zimbabwe National Army Ben Ncube, Major General Engelbert Rugeje, and Air Vice-Marshal Elson Moyo, all of whom were arrested and charged with treason. Mnangagwa labelled the attempt as "stupid".

2008: Mugabe's chief election agent

2009-2013: Minister of Defence

2013-2017: Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs

2014-2017: Vice-President of Zimbabwe

August 2017: Mnangagwa was allegedly poisoned at a Zanu-PF Youth Interface rally in Gwanda, Matabeleland South. Though Mnangagwa denied there was an attempt on his life, he allegedly started vomiting violently but a week later it was reported, by Zimbabwean News Website, that he had recovered.

6 November 2017: Dismissed as vice-president.

15 November 2017: Mnangagwa appointed as the new leader of Zanu-PF, replacing Mugabe

See Graeme Feltham's opinion piece Peace has come at last to Zimbabwe?

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