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Zimbabwe’s 80-year-old ‘Crocodile’ president seeks new term

Zimbabwe’s 80-year-old ‘Crocodile’ president seeks new term

Emmerson Mnangagwa: Zimbabwe’s Enigmatic Leader’s Journey and Legacy



Emmerson Mnangagwa, a prominent figure in Zimbabwe’s political landscape, emerged as the country’s second president in a dramatic turn of events, orchestrating a military-backed coup that toppled the long-time ruler, Robert Mugabe, in 2017. Despite being in his 80s, Mnangagwa shows no inclination to retire, firmly aiming to solidify his leadership despite a myriad of challenges.

The Rise to Power

Nicknamed “The Crocodile” for his assertive and unyielding demeanor, Mnangagwa has navigated a complex political landscape to assert his authority. This journey began when he outmaneuvered Robert Mugabe’s wife, Grace Mugabe, in the race for the presidency. In 2017, Mugabe dismissed Mnangagwa as vice president, paving the way for his wife’s ascendancy. Fearing for his life, Mnangagwa fled to Mozambique with nothing but a briefcase of dollars.

The Turning Point

However, within weeks, the political landscape shifted as military chiefs orchestrated a brief takeover. Mnangagwa emerged as their chosen successor, leading to the end of Mugabe’s 37-year rule. Mnangagwa’s triumphant return was marked by support from the ruling ZANU-PF party, which propelled him into office. This remarkable turn of events showcased his resilience and strategic prowess.

Leadership and Challenges

Mnangagwa’s leadership tenure has been marked by both achievements and challenges. While he has been credited with spearheading infrastructure projects, including the construction of schools, bridges, and roads, Zimbabwe remains internationally isolated due to Western sanctions. Mnangagwa attributes the country’s economic woes to these sanctions, which have had a profound impact on its growth prospects.

Legacy of a Controversial Figure

Mnangagwa’s ascent to power was forged through decades of collaboration with Mugabe, dating back to Zimbabwe’s independence from British rule in 1980. However, his legacy is tarnished by allegations of violence and repression. In 2008, he was accused of orchestrating a wave of violence that forced the opposition to withdraw from a run-off vote. Moreover, his role in the “Gukurahundi massacre,” a brutal crackdown on opposition supporters that claimed thousands of lives, remains a stain on his reputation.

A Complex Personality

Mnangagwa’s personality is a blend of contradictions. He presents himself as a down-to-earth politician, often donning a suit along with a distinctive striped scarf in Zimbabwe’s national colors. Despite his strong image, he has faced several apparent assassination attempts, including a 2018 rally blast. Mnangagwa’s resilience and resolve in the face of adversity underscore his commitment to his vision for Zimbabwe.

A Leader’s Personal Journey

Born in 1942 as Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, his middle name “Dambudzo” translates to “adversity” in the Shona language, reflecting the challenges he has faced. His early education in Zimbabwe was followed by a period of exile in neighboring Zambia. In 1966, he joined the struggle for independence from British colonial rule, undergoing training in China and Egypt. His fierce “Crocodile Gang” guerrilla unit earned him the moniker “The Crocodile.”

Reckoning with the Past

Mnangagwa’s presidency has been marked by efforts to reconcile with the past. He has engaged in talks with tribal chiefs to address historical grievances, particularly concerning the “Gukurahundi massacre.” His establishment of a panel of chiefs to investigate the massacres demonstrates a commitment to acknowledging and addressing Zimbabwe’s painful history.

The Road Ahead

As Mnangagwa faces new challenges, he is gearing up for a second electoral contest against youthful opposition leader Nelson Chamisa. The upcoming election on August 23 presents an opportunity for Zimbabweans to make their voices heard once again. Mnangagwa’s legacy, marked by both triumphs and tribulations, continues to shape the country’s trajectory.


Emmerson Mnangagwa’s journey from a young combatant in the struggle for independence to Zimbabwe’s second president is a testament to his tenacity and political acumen. Nicknamed “The Crocodile,” he navigated treacherous waters, emerging as a prominent leader on the African continent. His presidency is marked by both achievements and challenges, reflecting the complex nature of Zimbabwe’s political landscape. As he faces the future, Mnangagwa’s legacy will be defined by his ability to lead his nation toward prosperity and reconciliation.


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