Sun | Dec 17, 2017

Figure known as 'Crocodile' set to replace Zimbabwe's Mugabe

Published:Wednesday | November 22, 2017 | 12:00 AM

JOHANNESBURG (AP):

Emmerson Mnangagwa, elected as the new leader of Zimbabwe's ruling political party and now poised to take over as the country's president within hours, has engineered a remarkable comeback using skills he no doubt learnt from his longtime mentor, the newly resigned President Robert Mugabe.

Mnangagwa served for decades as Mugabe's enforcer - a role that gave him a reputation for being astute, ruthless and effective at manipulating the levers of power. Among the population, he is more feared than popular, but he has strategically fostered a loyal support base within the military and security forces.

A leading government figure since Zimbabwe's independence in 1980, he became vice-president in 2014 and is so widely known as the 'Crocodile' that his supporters are called Team Lacoste for the brand's crocodile logo.

The 75-year-old "is smart and skilful, but will he be a panacea for Zimbabwe's problems? Will he bring good governance and economic management? We'll have to watch this space," said Piers Pigou, southern Africa expert for the International Crisis Group.

Mugabe unwittingly set in motion the events that led to his own downfall, firing his vice-president on November 6. Mnangagwa fled the country to avoid arrest while issuing a ringing statement saying he would return to lead Zimbabwe.

"Let us bury our differences and rebuild a new and prosperous Zimbabwe, a country that is tolerant to divergent views, a country that respects opinions of others, a country that does not isolate itself from the rest of the world because of one stubborn individual who believes he is entitled to rule this country until death," he said in the November 8 statement.