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在线翻译:
szdaily -> Special Report
Emmerson Mnangagwa: The ‘crocodile’ who has snapped back
    2017-November-24  08:53    Shenzhen Daily

WHEN Zimbabwean leader Robert Mugabe sacked his vice president in front of 12,000 baying party members in 2014, Emmerson Mnangagwa sat quietly in the crowd, a green baseball cap pulled low over his eyes.

The man who stood to gain most from the dismissal betrayed nothing through his expression and gentle clapping — a survival tactic honed during five decades of service to the mercurial Mugabe. His cap, however, spoke volumes.

Emblazoned across its front, next to a portrait of Mugabe, were four words: “Indigenize, Empower, Develop, Employ” — a slogan of the ruling ZANU-PF party. That day, he became Mugabe’s official deputy.

Mnangagwa, whose sacking from the post Nov. 6 brought Zimbabwe’s political crisis to a head, is now poised to take over after Mugabe resigned Tuesday, ending almost four decades of rule.

Mnangagwa fled Zimbabwe upon being fired from his job as vice president but made a triumphant return to the country a day after 93-year-old Mugabe resigned.

His appearance at the headquarters of the party electrified a crowd that waited for hours.

Flanked by bodyguards, and dressed in a blue suit, he raised his fists and danced a little on a podium, delighting supporters who hope he can guide Zimbabwe out of political and economic turmoil that has exacted a heavy toll on the southern African nation of 16 million.

“Today we are witnessing the beginning of a new, unfolding democracy,” said Mnangagwa, who added that he had already received messages of support from other countries.

“We need the cooperation of the continent of Africa,” he said. “We need the cooperation of our friends outside the continent.”

Mnangagwa will be sworn in this week, ZANU-PF’s legal secretary Patrick Chinamasa said. The party’s chief whip said Mnangagwa would serve the remainder of Mugabe’s term until the next election due by September 2018.

But there are questions over how Mnangagwa will lead the country led by Mugabe since independence in 1980.

In a statement issued from hiding Tuesday, Mnangagwa said Zimbabweans from all walks of life had to work together to rebuild a shattered economy and deeply polarized society.

“My desire is to join all Zimbabweans in a new era, where corruption, incompetence, dereliction of duty and laziness, social and cultural decadence is not tolerated,” he said.

“In that new Zimbabwe, it is important for everyone to join hands so that we rebuild this nation to its full glory. This is not a job for ZANU-PF alone but for all people of Zimbabwe.”

It is not the first time that Mnangagwa has been in line to lead Zimbabwe. Mnangagwa was mooted as a potential presidential successor in leaked U.S. diplomatic cables as far back as 2000.

His impeccable revolutionary credentials, coupled with his strong support among key parts of Zimbabwe’s elite — specifically within the military and security services — singled him out as an obvious, and noncontroversial, successor.

The 75-year-old was one of Mugabe’s most trusted lieutenants, having been at his side in prison, during wartime and then in government. Mnangagwa lost Mugabe’s trust at various points but always managed to ingratiate himself.

With his appointment in 2014 as Mugabe’s official deputy, Mnangagwa had appeared well set as the eventual successor to Africa’s oldest head of state.

“There are no arguments around his credentials to provide strong leadership and stability, but there are questions over whether he can also be a democrat,” said Eldred Masunungure, a political science lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe.

Speaking at the congress in 2014, Mnangagwa reinforced the message emblazoned on his headgear, announcing revisions to ZANU-PF’s constitution that backed “total ownership and control” of Zimbabwe’s natural resources.

It was a key insight to the party’s direction as it contemplated life beyond Mugabe.

“We will remain forever masters of our own destiny,” Mnangagwa said at the time, to cheers from the crowd.

Along the way, Mnangagwa earned the nickname “Ngwena,” Shona for crocodile, an animal famed in Zimbabwean lore for its stealth and sternness.

In a radio interview two years ago, Mnangagwa explained that a crocodile never leaves the water to search for food. Instead, it waits patiently for its prey to approach. “It strikes at the appropriate time,” he said.

He backed Mugabe’s economic nationalism, especially a drive to force foreign firms to hand majority stakes to local blacks, raising doubts that whether he can be the pro-market pragmatist many investors were hoping for.

He has been in every administration since independence, holding posts as varied as minister of state security, defense and finance, as well as speaker of parliament.

Most controversially, he was in charge of internal security in the mid-1980s when Mugabe deployed a brigade against rebels loyal to his rival Joshua Nkomo.

Rights groups say 20,000 civilians, mostly from the Ndebele tribe, were killed. Mugabe denies genocide or crimes against humanity but has admitted it was a “moment of madness.”

Secretive and insular, he prefers to operate under the radar, those in his inner circle say, and when pushed into a corner, resorts to jokes and trivia to avoid serious discussion.

“I wouldn’t say he is deceptive but it’s fair to say his default position is to crack jokes and deflect uncomfortable questions by asking endless questions,” one member of parliament close to him said.

“He is very conscious that his public image is that of a hard man but he is a much more complex personality — pleasant and an amazing storyteller,” said the politician, also from Mnangagwa’s Midlands Province.

Mnangagwa’s appointment as vice president came a day after his predecessor Joice Mujuru was fired for allegedly planning to topple Mugabe.

Asked whether the purge would weaken the party, a smiling Mnangagwa said: “The revolution has a way of strengthening itself. It goes through cycles, this is another cycle where it rids itself of elements that had now become inconsistent with the correct line.”

Mnangagwa learnt his politics in prison in the 1960s after being sentenced to death for sabotage by British authorities. He was captured while in one of the earliest guerrilla units fighting white colonial rule in what was then Rhodesia.

He was 19 and only spared the noose by a law prohibiting the execution of convicts under 21.

After a decade in prison, often sharing a cell with Mugabe, Mnangagwa became personal assistant to the leader of the liberation struggle.

While imprisoned, Mnangagwa studied through a correspondence school. After his release in 1975, he went to Zambia, where he completed a law degree. Soon he went to Mozambique, where he became Mugabe’s assistant and bodyguard.

After receiving combat training overseas, he became a guerrilla commander in the liberation war that brought Mugabe to power in 1980.

Since 2016, Mnangagwa’s political ambitions have crossed paths with Grace Mugabe’s. The first lady hoped to succeed his husband some day.

In January, a photograph appeared in local media showing Mnangagwa enjoying drinks with a friend. In his hand was a large novelty mug emblazoned with the words: “I’m the boss.”

To supporters of Mugabe, this bordered on treason. They suspected that Mnangagwa already saw himself in the leader’s shoes.

When Mugabe fired Mnangagwa as vice president this month for showing “traits of disloyalty,” he removed a possible successor who was also one of his last remaining liberation war comrades.

But relations had already cooled between the two men after suggestions by Mnangagwa’s allies in August that he had been poisoned by ice cream from a dairy owned by the Mugabes.

Mnangagwa “faces high expectations but will have a short honeymoon while he starts the process of moving Zimbabwe forward,” the state-run Zimbabwe Herald newspaper said in a commentary Wednesday.

“He has the best wishes of most Zimbabweans, at least today,” the newspaper said.(SD-Agencies)

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