Meet 'the Crocodile' Emmerson Mnangagwa, new Zimbabwe President

Widely known as "the Crocodile", Mnangagwa was a key Mugabe confidant for decades until they fell out due to the presidential ambitions of former first lady Grace Mugabe.

Former Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, whose ousting led to a military takeover in Zimbabwe, was sworn in as President on Friday, triggering an uncertain phase in the country's history following the end of Robert Mugabe's 37-year regime.

The swearing-in ceremony of Mnangagwa, a high-profile member of the ruling ZANU-PF party, took place at the capital's National Sports Stadium and was cheered by tens of thousands of jubilant Zimbabweans. Dignitaries, including leaders from various African countries, filed in to witness the event.

Widely known as "the Crocodile", Mnangagwa was a key Mugabe confidant for decades until they fell out due to the presidential ambitions of former first lady Grace Mugabe. "Ngwena" which means "the crocodile" in the native Ndebele language, referred to him initially after the guerrilla group he founded, but later because of his political shrewdness.

From the days of the Rhodesian Bush War, as a guerilla leader, Mnangawa became one of the senior cabinet colleagues of Mugabe after Zimbabwe became independent in 1980. He held several senior positions such as minister of state security during the Gukurahundi massacres in which up to 20,000 mainly Ndebele civilians were killed. Mnangagwa blamed the army for the massacres and but continued in the cabinet.

However, in 2005, he was demoted Minister of Rural Housing in 2005 for openly jockeying to succeed Mugabe but returned to favour during general election in 2008 to lead Mugabe's overall electoral campaign. He played a key role in forcing opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai abandon the presidential run-off and negotiate a power-sharing agreement after the election.

Mnangagwa was rewarded with the ministry of defence later in 2009 to 2013, when he became Minister of Justice. Later, Mnangagwa was appointed Vice President in December 2014 and was widely considered to be Mugabe's successor.

But Mnangagwa's choice was opposed by the Generation 40 faction led by President Mugabe's wife, Grace Mugabe, which led to his unceremonious dismissal by President Mugabe on November 6, 2017 for allegedly plotting against the government.

Mnangawa soon fled to South Africa and General Constantino Chiwenga, his ally and chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces, launched a coup d'état to end Mugabe's rule and pave the way for the Crocodile to return assume the presidency.

On Thursday, November 23, Mnangagwa, 75, received the green presidential sash that was placed around his neck making him the second President of Zimbabwe since independence in 1980.

Mugabe did not attend Mnangagwa's inauguration citing health grounds. Opposition leaders Morgan Tsvangirai and Joice Mujuru were at the ceremony.

Mnangagwa, who served for half a century as his predecessor's right-hand man, however, paid tribute to Mugabe as his "father" and "mentor". He said he still personally considered him his leader.

Mnangagwa has also warned against "vengeful retribution" of Mugabe's followers. He will serve as an interim President until a leader is elected at the polls next year.

However, opposition politician David Coltart tweeted: "We have removed a tyrant but not yet a tyranny."

(With inputs from IANS)