As Robert Mugabe prepares to step down as Zimbabwe’s president following his near 20-year reign, preparations have been made for his successor, current vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa. Mugabe has methodically been replacing cabinet positions with Mnangagwa supporters, in anticipation of the change in leadership.
Nicknamed “Crocodile,” Mnangagwa is well-positioned to take the presidency, having been with the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party since its founding in the 1960s, along with Mugabe. ZANU-PF currently has the majority of seats in Zimbabwe’s parliament.
Due to Mugabe’s suspicions of the previous vice president Joice Mujuru, she was removed from office last December in favor of Mnangagwa.
Mugabe’s wife Grace has revealed her own leadership ambitions in the past year and gained the support of a younger group of ZANU-PF politicians who want to see her succeed president Mugabe.
Political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe, Eldred Masunungure, stated that Mnangagwa’s future presidency is not assured, “He will have to contend with various forces...he has many obstacles to overcome. Having said that, he is the most strategically located to take over. He is a close ally and confidante of the president for a long time."
Zimbabwe has suffered severe economic conditions in recent years due to misguided policies that saw formerly white-owned farmland seized by the government and then distributed to political allies.
Mnangagwa is said to have also urged Mugabe to re-engage with the West, and has attempted to portray himself as a business-minded candidate saying, “A leader must not take the people where they want to go, but where they ought to go, whether the people or the leader want it or not, or whether it is hard or not.”
Given that Mr. Mugabe is known for fits of whim, Mnangagwa will still have to tread carefully as the 2018 election approaches. But Mnangagwa displayed his familiarity with political maneuvering as he explained the meaning behind his nickname, “You know the traits of a crocodile, don't you? It strikes at the appropriate time.”