‘The Crocodile’ named Mugabe’s No 2

Emmerson Mnangagwa has been made first vice president. Picture: AP
Emmerson Mnangagwa has been made first vice president. Picture: AP
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His new mansion has one fewer bedroom than president Robert Mugabe’s. It is a huge white palace in the depths of rural northern Zimbabwe.

The 24-room home in Zvishavane is guarded with the kind of security befitting a president-in-waiting. Because that, for almost as long as locals can remember, is what Zimbabwe’s Emmerson Mnangagwa wanted to be.

Named first vice president yesterday by the ailing 90-year-old president, he has finally outfoxed his rivals. If Mr Mugabe dies or steps down, Mr Mnangagwa will step into his shoes.

“The Crocodile”, as he is known, has lurked in the murky waters of Zanu-PF’s tussle for power for decades.

Mr Mnangagwa is known to have organised the bloody crackdown on opposition Movement for Democratic Change supporters after Mr Mugabe lost the first round of presidential elections in 2008.

Suspected also in the 1980s killings in southern Matabeleland, Mr Mnangagwa is widely feared – in direct contrast to his rather grandmotherly predecessor Joice Mujuru.

“He has the capacity to be very cruel,” said Pedzisai Ruhanya of the Zimbabwe Democracy ­Institute.

Mr Mnangagwa made much of his money in illegal mining during Zimbabwe’s foray into the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo in the 1990s. He has vast wealth to protect, as do Mr Mugabe and his wife Grace.

“You see this core group of Zanu-PF individuals who are primarily concerned about maintaining their own wealth and not that of the people. It’s really sad,” said Jeffrey Smith of the RFK Center for Justice and Human Rights in Washington.

Mr Mnangagwa, 68, is not a talkative man. But at the ruling party’s congress last weekend he waxed lyrical. Mr Mugabe “is a man without parallel in this universe,” he told 12,000 delegates.

They had rallied behind him and the first lady to evict all allies of Mrs Mujuru from the ruling party’s central committee.

“We must thank God Almighty for having given us this man as our own to hold and cherish and for also having endowed him with a long and illustrious life,” Mr Mnangagwa added.

The sooner Mr Mugabe dies the better it is for Mr Mnangagwa, because then Mrs Mujuru does not have a chance to claw herself back into the president’s good books – just as Mr Mnangagwa has managed to do.

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.