Pretoria - Very little is known and even less said about the man called “The Crocodile” or “Ngwena” [Shona for crocodile]. Now, the world’s eyes are on sacked vice-president Emmerson Dambudzo Mnangagwa, who has returned from exile to take over the reins of power from Robert Mugabe, who has ruled for nearly four decades.
A veteran of the country’s liberation war against white dominance, stone-faced Mnangagwa, 74, is a man of few words with strong military links.
Ordinary Zimbabweans are wary, whispering anxiously about his alleged role in the 1980s Gukurahundi massacres.
Around 20 000 Zimbabweans are believed to have died in the massacres as the military crushed perceived dissidents in Matabeleland and Midlands regions. “Gukurahundi” is Shona for “the first rains which washes away the chaff (from the last harvest), before the spring rains”.
Mnangagwa, who joined the military at a very young age, was recruited into the Zimbabwe African People’s Union (ZAPU) in 1962. He received military training in China and Egypt. He earned his nickname due to his crocodile style in sabotage activities against the former white government.
At Zimbabwe’s independence in 1980, Mnangagwa was appointed Minister of State Security, a role he held until 1988 when he was appointed Minister of Justice.
Relations between Mugabe and Mnangagwa were close and friendly at first but recently became frosty amid a power struggle within the ruling Zanu PF party about who would succeed the 93-year old Mugabe. Mugabe sacked his deputy last week after harsh criticism and ridicule directed at Mnangagwa by Mugabe’s wife, Grace.
Mnangagwa became Zimbabwe’s vice president in 2014, taking over from Joice Mujuru who had served in the position for more than 10 years. Mujuru was dismissed from Zanu PF and the Zimbabwean government, banished into exile.
African News Agency